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Will People Pay For News?

Dan McReavy - 30/10/2012 11:29 CDT

Denver, Colorado, United States

I believe people will pay for valuable information.  That's prima facie the argument itself.  If something has value, it has a price that is driven by the dynamics of supply and demand.

The Supply of Information

The legacy news publishers voluntarily gave away all of their content - valuable or otherwise - for free over the past two decades since the consumer Internet emerged.  The horses ran out of the barn!  Online subscriptions haven't been able to offset the lost print subscriptions OR the lost advertising revenues.

The metered paywall subscription is just the latest failure-to-be.  I laugh at the millions of wasted dollars developing such a moronic idea, but when you're desperate I guess people do what they have to do - and so do corporations, apparently!

Leaving some quantity of your content free means the best information goes unpaid for and you're left trying to charge for the "otherwise" content.  With regularity, the blogosphere will remix the rest (all) of the content and it's available to the consumer in slightly modified form for only the cost of advertising harassment and time-delay.

The metered paywall is NOT the panacea.

The Price of Information

The way I view the structure of the news industry is much more simple than the complexity everyone perceives.  You have corporate (social group) information producers like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today that gather, assimilate, translate, interpret, print and distribute information.  The defining characteristic is not the flavor of the information produced, but that they are all selling bundled products.

On the other hand, you have the blogosphere that is gathering, assimilating, translating, interpreting and selling content independently.  The closest thing to a common distribution network in the blogosphere is the RSS feed.  There are many bloggers in the finance industry selling subscriptions at and beyond the price of print publications, so we know a paid market for information can exist in the Internet ecosystem.  The remainder of bloggers are giving their information product away to maximize page views and the corresponding advertising revenue.

Not all micro-transactions are equal

The corporations bundling content cannot sell piecemeal information because they don't have any way to figure out how to price their individual content units and distribute the revenue accordingly!  What is one article worth versus another?  Is everything from one writer worth the same amount of money?  So there are two structural problems the legacy publishing institutions face to unbundling their content and implementing a true micro-transaction business model for the Internet ecosystem:

1 - How to price individual articles at true value?
2 - How to equitably compensate the information producers (news staff)?

What is nwzPaper doing different?

We are unbundling the organization AND the content!  To achieve this unbundling of the industry there needs to be a network structure among writers or you end up with the blogosphere.  The network needs to:

1 - Empower the individual to run his own publishing business front-to-back.
2 - BE a fiduciary that the community can trust to settle two-way financial flows and maintain a neutral position on content message.
3 - Efficiently organize content through subscriptions and geospatial information systems to REMOVE information from the user's news stream that isn't relevant to each individual reader.

An Exercise in Madness

Take a look at the front page of the New York Times' website.  Go through and count the number of headlines on the front page that you would be interested in reading at no cost, today.  Take that number and divide it by the total number of article links plus miscellaneous links.  That number is the % clutter score that the New York Times is making you look at.  A bigger number is not better!

With the nwzPaper platform, we are looking to improve the industry of social information, news, for everyone.  This can only be achieved through a comprehensive approach that enables an information cycle that is structurally different from production through distribution to the final consumer, the subscriber.  Writers should have the freedom to price their work and the readers can decide if the price is fair.  

If you don't like what someone says, don't read or subscribe.  No cost and no loss!  If you, as a reader, are enriched by a writer's information, is it not acceptable and appropriate to compensate him?  Pennies, nickles, and quarters are affordable to everyone and, in-volume, can add up to a significant income for competent contributors.

nwzPaper is moving journalists closer to their readers.  The relationship between writers and their readers shouldn't be so distant, anyway!

We are building an incentive system and with time, as relationships between writers and readers mature, the quality of content will rise and satisfied paying readers will come.