Friday, May 29, 2009

Maybe it's kind of like facebook and relationships: It's not real until Murdoch says so.

Murdoch does differ from the obvious general airwaves by offering some details: he says it'll take ten to fifteen years for news to go fully digital, and there will be a digital subscription model, with subscribers receiving updates "every hour or two." He also casually tosses out that news sites will be vastly improved - there will be "much more in them."

Murdoch's News Corps is one of the few companies with a pay model already in place. The million dollar question - literally, and then some - in the future of news is: Who's gonna pay for it?

Make no mistake: the dinky impulse-buy price of newspapers (and magazines) hasn't ever paid for the costs of producing them. Subscriptions are significant, but the advertising on those pages is what made print so solvent you could practically wash windows with it.

But the advertising model hasn't worked online; the NY Times Web site is the envy of the news universe, but it still only generates 10% of the company's gross revenue. That might pay for operating the site, but it doesn't pay for the reporting that shows up on it. Subscription models could help, but there are some problems with this. Two that come immediately to mind:

1. Unless everyone goes subscription at the same time (which has been discussed), users will simply get their news somewhere it's still offered for free.

2. Even if all the major news outlets protect their content, many individuals who pay for it will still blog about it for free - after all, many of them make supplemental income off of hits to their Web sites. Why do I need to pay for full content, asks the "smart consumer," when I can get the rehash for free?

So, friends: who's going to pay for the time you spend waiting for sources to call you back?

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