Can Free Press Continue Online? Why Interactive News Can’t Be Free Forever


It’s time for the newspaper industry to start charging for their online content. They gate it at the newsstand; why not at the home page?

Yes, yes. Readers will bolt to other sites that are free. How many of those sites are profitable? Newspapers are expensive propositions to produce, online or off.

Aren’t all online newspaper outlets playing chicken with each other to see who can hold out the longest, while bleeding rivers of red ink?

Very few newspapers have profitable online departments. Only two come to mind: The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. One charges it’s readers, the other is starting to.

As legions of young readers are choosing the Internet as their primary news source, newspapers need to reinvent themselves to create interactive news online that engages their readers in ways that a static printed page never will. The big players have the resources to build this level of content today, and should start charging for it. They’ll have to hang tough. If they do, other news outlets may join them. And if the content is great, people will be willing to pay.

It’s that, or newspapers may eventually find themselves among the casualties of the Digital Juggernaut.


  1. Online readers will pay, but only when offered a uniquely interactive level of engagement. Online — and the revenue streams that will certainly follow — is limited only by the imagination of publishers and marketers.

  2. I think the revenue model is faulty to charge for content. That can only go so far and yes, readers will bolt somewhere else. Only archives can conceivably charge for content, I think.

    I think there should be revenue models of charge per content/article. I know I personally read an article – not a newspaper online. There are too many things out there, and 1 AP news article is published in multiple online newspapers – so why should I pay for ANY news when papers simply syndicate much of the same content?

    But – for truly unique news, unique content – why not charge per article? When I use news search or search for news, I look for the news – not the news paper. Yet online newspapers ask for subscriptions – that’s exactly what I DON’T want to do! I don’t want a friggin newspaper – i just want the article.

    Another revenue model should be to charge for syndication. It’s easy to use feeds and publish them on other sites. Why not charge online publishers to use the feeds? I have seen some do that, but mainly in specialty news sites. Most newspapers do not charge publishers who reparse feeds on their own sites. Of course that makes it hard for common readers to use RSS – so what can be done?

    Right now…I dont know – I think of the ideas.


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