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FT to papers: Readers will pay for quality journalism

Rory Cellan-Jones | 08:39 UK time, Thursday, 4 March 2010

Can newspapers which have spent years giving away their content free online now start charging for it?

That's the debate which has gripped editors and journalists over recent months, with few feeling too optimistic about getting their readers to pay.

But I've been speaking to the boss of one rather successful online newspaper - and his message is that papers can and should start asking a fair price for news.

Screenshot of FT.com"Publishers should have more balls, they should have more confidence about what they're doing," is how Rob Grimshaw, managing director of FT.com put it.

"If they put their mind to it then they can produce compelling products online which people will pay for."

The Financial Times, which is part of the Pearson group, has just unveiled a 43% rise over the last year in the number of people subscribing to its online service.

Mr Grimshaw said the company does not break out the revenues it gets from those subscribers, but as there are now 126,000 of them, paying a minimum of £180 a year, that looks like around £20 million.

The FT has been charging for online content for many years - but in 2007 it adopted its current model which has three elements to it.

Anonymous visitors to the site can just see headlines and read one article per month, those who register but don't pay are allowed 10 articles a month, and then there are the paying customers who get everything, including an iPhone app.

What's interesting is that the middle group, those who register but don't pay, are still proving lucrative. The 1.9 million people registered users have given some very basic information such as their job title.

That's enough, according to Mr Grimshaw, to allow the FT to run a targeted advertising and marketing operation with high yields.

But surely a newspaper with a very specialist and wealthy audience is in a far better position to charge than those with less valuable content?

Rob Grimshaw says newspaper publishers are putting too low a price on their journalism:

"The number of people who can write great quality content day in, day out is really very small - that's why journalism is a profession. For all that's going on in the blogosphere and with user generated content publishers still have a grip on the majority of the best writers in the world."

He admits it won't be easy for papers that have been giving away their content for 10 years to start charging but insists it is feasible. In any case the existing advertising-funded model has been strained to breaking point.

One of the giants of the advertising industry Sir Martin Sorrell told an FT conference this week that consumers were going to have to learn to pay for things online because there was simply not enough advertising available to fund all the content.

Of course there is a way of getting through the paywall at FT.com using Google - but unlike many in the newspaper world Rob Grimshaw isn't going to war with the search giant:

"The choice is in the hands of publishers - we could switch off our content on Google tomorrow. If our content wasn't listed on Google we'd have to find another way to acquire traffic."

He says newspapers need to think about the huge amount of traffic they get from Google and how they can better extract value from it.

So the message from the FT is give your readers quality journalism, get to know them much better, stop worrying about Google - and start charging for your content.

Simple really - but don't forget that it took the Financial Times more than a decade of trial and error to get it right.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    "consumers were going to have to learn to pay for things online"

    Something which i agree with.

    Back in the old days before this interweb came along and we have 4 channels. People would either buy a paper or they didn't, and got their daily dose of the news at 6pm when the news come on the TV.

    Now, with this interflap thingy, people can get a massive amount of news at the touch of a button with the false understanding that it is free.

    I am one of the people that never purchased a news paper, i never really saw the point of reading yesterdays news, however, i would (and still do) watch the 6pm news every night, as i have paid for it (through my TV License, and having to watch them damn annoying adverts with fat opera singers in).

    My Daily digest of news online consists of the BBC, and i tend to wobble over to news aggregates every now and then, but this "paywall" thing won't really affect me too much unless the BBC take down their news section becuase of pressure from Rupert Murdock.

  • Comment number 2.

    FT doesn't mention the elephant in the room... The BBC.
    With good old auntie giving everything away even to non-licence fee payers there will only ever be a limited number of people willing to pay for content... Although we are paying through our licence fee there is nothing the beeb do to limit access even from people outside the uk, even the iplayer is available for people who use a proxy.

    Perhaps the BBC should start locking down content on the site by issuing secure log-in details with the tv licence unique to each household, and perhaps then will journalists from other organisations get what is 'owed' to them through a paywall, as the online ad model isn't sufficient

  • Comment number 3.

    It did take the FT a decade to get it right, but the point is other publishers can utilise the wealth of data the FT experiments have generated to get their own pay systems right.

    Obviously, £180 is going to seem a bit steep for most people, but when you think of how much papers cost, it is quite reasonable. As a quick example I've pulled together a quick table of some newspaper daily prices, and what that equates to over 220 issues (assuming reader did not buy at weekends, and for 38 other days of the year):

    Financial Times £1 £220
    Guardian 70p £154
    Independent 70p £154
    Daily Telegraph 70p £154
    Times 65p £143
    Daily Mail 45p £99
    Daily Express 40p £88
    Daily Mirror 38p £83.60
    Sun 35p £77
    Daily Star 35p £77

    If you can get users to subscribe based on a discounted rate, then there is the opportunity to generate revenue online that would supplement the traditional newspaper business. An annual fee might put people off, but if they paid by direct debit, or credit card monthly, most people that are interested in the news, would probably wouldn't notice the fee.

    As to Google, cutting off Google would probably be a mistake, instead it would be better to utilise Google to leverage new subscriptions, maybe even utilise a day/three day pass, which is an added revenue stream, and helps subsidise the free content loosed on the world which ensures people know who you are, and what you offer on your website.

    Of course, if people are paying for content, then the newspapers are going to have to raise their game, some have really good sites, but others have incredibly poor ones, featuring awful designs, poor coding, and technologies that aren't backwardsly compatible with restrictive computer systems in the work place (where a large online readership base exists).

    You'll always have people that go for the free news, but newspapers need to show you get what you pay for, and make sure what they're offering is worth it.

  • Comment number 4.

    @ 2, Chris:

    You can't fight against proxies and log in details would be unmanageable (plus who's to stop people advertising their log in?)

    As for the beeb giving away it's content, if you live outside of the UK you get adverts. It's just assumed that if you're a UK citizen you're also a license fee payer (as demonstrated by the adverts that state you're assumed guilty and have to prove yourself innocent if you're not a license fee payer - even if you don't have a TV)

  • Comment number 5.

    Replying to Chris, at number 2

    I can see your point - however the problem is the other news suppliers just don't offer any real quality, and they should when they're asking us to pay. How many just reprint copy from international news agencies, and invent sports reporters because they've axed everyone that was qualified to comment on a sport? Also, the BBC has invested in getting their online aspect right - partly because they don't have any offline business to deal with, but otherwise because they're remit is to provide to the public high quality online services. Rupert Murdochs empire have yet to master design and technology to attract the audience, I've tried to use the Sky News website and its awful - its always been better to read their stories through aggregators such as Yahoo, MSN, or Google.

    You get what you pay for, and I'm happy with what I'm paying for and recieving from the BBC, can't say the same about other companies.

  • Comment number 6.

    Whilst I'd never personally pay for online news, the comment that readers will pay for quality content has some merit to it.

    But it's also why Murdoch and son have a problem, the key term is "quality". Murdoch knows his empire focusses on the shock factor, rather than actually reporting quality news, and he realises this is exactly why he's in trouble. He's built his news outlets from The Sun to Fox News up from shock reporting, sometimes even including outright lies, and now we're in a position where free doesn't pay anymore, but worse, that Murdoch's audience aren't generally the wealthy who can even afford to pay.

    Whilst news sites like The Guardian probably could get away with a switch to a pay for platform for example, it's going to be the killing blow of Murdoch's empire if he takes that path. His actions and media manipulation have finally come back to bite him in the digital age, and all he can do is blame Google.

    So absolutely, Rob Grimshaw is right, but "quality" is absolutely the key term here. People will not pay for trash.

  • Comment number 7.

    Of course the public will pay for quality journalism, however the Suns, Stars and Mirrors of this world don't produce quality journalism. The vast majority of the content is no different to that you'll find on TMZ or Perez Hilton, and that is their problem.

  • Comment number 8.

    Catch-22, I'm not going to pay for it unless I consider it to be worth the money. At the moment I don't buy any newspapers because I consider that there's too much subjective reporting and a fair degree of inaccuracy in what I see, due to the race to be first rather than correct. I certainly wouldn't pay for any of the tabloids. Concentrate on real news, get it right and in depth, and ignore the antics of celebrities.

  • Comment number 9.

    Wow! What a shock! A Newspaper is charging people for its content !! Really ? Have they gone mad?
    Seriously, before the Internet came along, most successful businesses were based on a proper sales and spending model. You spend £ x to produce your goods/services and hopefully you received a multiple of x from selling it. If your product was good, consumers would buy it and you'd make a profit. If not, they wouldn't and your business failed.
    When the Internet came along, some very clever (or stupid) people thought that the old model should be thrown out, without really thinking about it.
    At the end of the day, the Internet is just another channel for your product. It doesn't suddenly mean that it should be free. Nobody accesses the Internet for free. So why should all the content be free? The ONLY profitable businesses on the Internet are porn and gambling. And they aren't free. Aha !!!
    I have never bought a national newspaper on a daily basis, even when they did not have an Internet presence. If they want to charge for their content, they're welcome to do so. If they think they can make money from news or their views, then good luck to them.
    As for the BBC, it's a bit tricky. The licence fee model is creaking and I don't think it will last for too long. Adverts have already started for the UK non-doms. It's just a matter of time before the BBC becomes a full commercial broadcaster. Then no one will have to worry about 6Music or the Asian Network being cancelled or the licence fee for that matter !

  • Comment number 10.

    "consumers were going to have to learn to pay for things online"

    Suppliers are going to have to learn that the days where they dictate what the consumer 'have' to do has gone.

    It only takes one company to break ranks and offer free and they will be a success. There might be a few deluded souls who will pay but for the majority web=free.

  • Comment number 11.

    @ 5 , Jonathan Lawrence


    From some of the poorer technology articles I've read from the BBC, I'm not convinced they're any better than the others.
    Some articles have had the same glaring errors that and often huge quotes lifted from international news agencies.

    Sometimes it feels almost as if there is no independent investigative journalism going on at all.

  • Comment number 12.

    Notably, the other newspaper with a successful paywall is the Wallstreet Journal.

  • Comment number 13.

    Everyone holds up the FT as the proof that charging for online news is feasible and profitable, overlooking the fact that it is a specialist publication with a business readership. Any publisher expecting some sort of loyalty from readers is, frankly, deluded. "Quality journalism" is often shown to be an oxymoron - the so-called newspapers are largely not worth reading let alone paying for. One cannot trust a word that appears within them and their content is routinely biased depending on the political affiliations of the publisher. If one provider charges, people will migrate to one that does not so they can say goodbye to a hefty chunk of advertising revenue as the advertisers jump ship to put their ads into content that people do actually read. Subscription models are flawed - why do they think people who do not subscribe to paper newspapers will do so for online news? If Murdoch takes The Times into this territory, he'll bury the paper for good.

  • Comment number 14.

    Someone referred me to an FT article yesterday. It said I'd already read one this month - no idea when as it was only the 3rd of the month! FT said I should register - yet another password, yet another chance for my ID to leak out. No thanks.

    So I didn't bother to read FT article.

    Instead, with help of first contact, read article elsewhere.

    Lesson? Casual readers are not going to pay and are very unlikely to register. Limit of one free article means I'm never knowingly likely to go back to FT. You need the specialist audience who know you are the main, reliable source for paid-for content. Not true for most other news titles. They are in cloud-cuckoo land.

  • Comment number 15.

    I commented on an FT article concerning this and I'd like to make the same point here.

    I completely agree that quality journalism should be paid for. The problem with subscribing to news websites is that it creates information silos that people will not leave because it costs them a lot of money. This works against the general trend of the web which is to provide information from many different sources so that a reader can gain a wider understanding of an issue.

    In essence, news websites are trying to re-create the financial model of the newspaper on the web; this works against the grain of the web medium. This suggests to me that in the long run it is unlikely to be successful.

    When I read an article on the FT, I might read a related article from The Guardian, The Independent, etc. If I had to pay a subscription to all of these sites, it would cost me too much money.

    People will find ways around these silos, which means that people will end up getting the news articles for free, while an unknowing group will pay for the news and end up subsidising others' reading.

    A much better solution would be micro-payments. Every time you read an article, you pay a small amount of money to the provider. Using micro-payments, news aggregators could benefit news providers.

    Moreover, a single micro-payment solution could be used across many different news providers. This would mean that the reader would only have one place where they would need to provide payments (either after the fact or by pre-paying into an account).

  • Comment number 16.

    “Simple really - but don't forget that it took the Financial Times more than a decade of trial and error to get it right.”

    Exactly. They’ve chucked millions at FT.com over the past decade and only now are they making a decent return. Compare it to WSJ.com, the Wall Street Journal’s website, which has a much bigger subscriber base and has been making pots of cash for years. The mystery is how the FT managed to get it wrong for so long. Who was responsible for missing this huge opportunity?

    I don’t see the FT’s good fortune as a harbinger for other British newspapers or media organizations. The FT is a very different animal to The Times, BBC or the godawful tabloids. It’s a niche publication that delivers information which is (a) unique and (b) essential, to a very small and well-paid global audience. People buy the FT because they have to, not because it has an interview with their favourite pop star or a nice pull-out poster of British woodland mammals. It’s no surprise that similar publications (such as the aforementioned WSJ and The Economist) are also doing very well online. Not subscribing to them in print or online puts you at a disadvantage. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for most of our national newspapers.

  • Comment number 17.

    I prefer to read a newspaper than trawl the web for news whilst I eat my lunch. Call me old fashioned but I like the experience of reading something an editorial team have deliberately put together.
    I used to buy my particular choice of Newspaper about 2 or 3 times a week, with the occasional Sunday chucked in. I like the newspaper experience. So when I discovered on the free online website that there was a premium online "see the newspaper as printed" for about a tenner a month I jumped at the chance.

    I am happy to pay for a product - but I also think that UK citizens have the right to have access to free quality news - rather than what advertisers are willing to support.

    Alas we used to be citizens and now we are reduced to mere consumers.

  • Comment number 18.

    @2 Reading a lot of the debate on this topic, you'd think the BBC was a very lonely elephant. In reality, there is a whole herd of them.

    News International's trick is to convince people that because they own a TV new channel - Sky News, then the BBC is directly comparable with N.I.

    The BBC does not publish a newspaper.

    If the news.bbc.co.uk site disappeared overnight, you could still get a similar level of news in English from the websites of other *TV* channels, particularly dedicated news channels: CNN, MSNBC, France24, EuroNews, etc.

    Most of whom, as commercial entities, are directly competing with each other for the limited pot of advertising revenues, unlike the BBC, whose effect, at most, is to reduce overall advertising spend specifically on news outlets (which would then be redirected to other entertainment sources). The BBC (in the UK) does not make overall advertising spend reduce, just influences a redistribution.

  • Comment number 19.

    People just won't pay for poor quality articles, most of which are little more than reworded press releases or articles lifted from the Press Association, Reuters etc, and many of which are thinly-veiled propaganda or attempts to "get one over" on the proprietor's perceived enemies. That's a fact. Anyone wondering why journalism is in the state it is in today need only read Nick Davies' book Flat Earth News, which exposes the goings-on in the modern day media.

    I get all of my news from four sources: TV, BBC online, Private Eye and blogs. TV is covered by the licence fee and the Sky subscription (although I suspect watching Sky News would decrease my knoweldge, rather than enhance it), so that one's covered.

    BBC online is also covered by the licence fee, and is the only bona fide online news site I trust because, despite it's faults (and they are numerous), it's the closest we have to accurate, balanced journalism among the big media organisations (I say closest, because even the BBC is full of inaccuracies and blatant bias).

    Private Eye is the only news source I pay for directly, and there's a very good reason for that: it's balanced, (mostly) accurate, well-written and, above all, it is the only source where the journalists actually investigate the stories and give a bit of depth to the stories, which I've always thought was the whole point of going to university to get a journalism degree. This month, they even got their medical writer to give a critique on their own coverage of the MMR story over the years - this would never happen in a Murdoch-owned title. If Private Eye changed to an online subscription service rather than a fortnightly publication, I would sign up to it in a second.

    Finally, blogs. Obviously, you need to exercise a certain amount of quality control when it comes to blogs, but this fact alone leads you to be more wary of believing everything you read, which is something people don't realise they should be doing when reading newspaper articles. The blogs I tend to read are invariably ones which discuss news stories in the conventional media, and point out their inaccuracies, bias and blatant falsehoods. In essence, they are doing what these newspapers should be doing in the first place, except for free.

    I can actually think of a couple of blogs which I would seriously consider making a paid subscription to. There is not one single online newspaper which I would pay for, though. Why? Quality, or namely the lack of it. Until newspapers start bucking up their ideas, they stand no chance of getting people to pay for them.

    Media corps, like record labels, have completely lost sight of why they exist in the first place. Both are concerned only with revenue streams, not realising that the loss of focus on their core product is the reason these revenue streams are dwindling. Just as we're reaching a point where bands are better off on their own without the hinderance of a label, I think the time is approaching where journalists will be better off just trying to make a name for themselves with a blog, and then trying to make a living through that. The only alternative for newspapers is to follow the lead of the Caledonian Mercury, a Scottish online newspaper which started up this year and which is trying to focus on quality, not quantity. On the main, it seems to be working, although some of the writers still seem to be battling the bias instilled in them by their previous careers in the mainstream media.

    In short, the reason no one will pay for Murdoch's titles is not because the BBC is free - it's because they don't produce anything worth paying for.

  • Comment number 20.

    What about local newspapers? Would you pay to read them online?

  • Comment number 21.

    The FT is distinctive (and unique in the UK) because of its extensive business coverage and analysis. Hence business people are willing to pay to that information and informed comment.

    The papers that rely more on a diet of celeb coverage plus a general mix of politics, sport and entertainment will find it harder to persuade people to pay – if Amy Winehouse does something, unfortunately its covered by similar websites the world over.
    Ditto sports results, wars, earthquakes and other major news.

    Unless every single one act together and charge then that information (news) will continue to be available for free.

    The news agencies - The Press Association, Reuters, AP etc – still release articles via the web – these are picked and repeated word for word up by media worldwide so it doesn’t matter if I read it in The Times or China-daily the news is still available.

    ITN has its own channel on YouTube. Many people record TV news reports and upload to YouTube. People report news they’ve seen or read on blogs.

    News will always be available for free from somewhere on the web.

    There is another option that the press don’t like to mention.

    A much slimmer selection of media with those providing distinctive niche product (such as the FT) or those able to survive on a mix of advertising, perhaps with some premium content paid for per view by micro-payments.

    Market economics dictate that the successful remain the unsuccessful close.

    Do all papers deserve to succeed?
    What is the point of the The Star for example?

  • Comment number 22.

    Well, it's a free market. It's their paper, they can charge what they like. I won't be paying for it. I'm sympathetic with the idea that quality journalism has to be paid for, but it's actually pretty rare to see examples of quality journalism in British newspapers.

    I might consider paying for it if it came with a money back guarantee: every time I find something inaccurate or misleading in an article, that month's subscription is free. I wonder if they'd offer such a guarantee?

  • Comment number 23.

    @ Chris, 2

    The BBC isn't the only elephant in the room. This elephant is also in the room:
    http://uk.reuters.com/news/technology

    So is this one:
    http://www.upi.com/

    In fact, there are several elephants, all in the room, at once, all stomping about and making the traditional newspapers look about as crucial to the process of delivering news, as your local corner shop.

    The news papers are trapped between the two ends of the news-generation and news-consumption process - with their own contribution to the process becoming increasiingly apparent, to their traditional audience: why talk to the monkey, when the organ grinder is standing just over there?

    The BBC is simply an easy target because it is publicly funded. I'm sure the Murdoch's must privately pour out just as much bile about the fact that they can never own more than their 15% stake in Reuters, and I bet they are fearful that other agencies - like the Press Association, say - might start direct-selling their content, too.

  • Comment number 24.

    I don't think it's anything to do with quality, which is subjective at best. I think it's all down to what people want to read and how they want it told to them. When the newspapers start charging there will obviously be a drop in the online readership, but I don't think it will be that great because the readers prefer the style of their chosen paper and will want to continue reading news in that style.
    What the papers do have to be careful about is how they handle selling news both in paper form and online. People may not want to pay for both but may well expect to read the news on both media for the same price.

  • Comment number 25.

    I would never pay for reading the news especially as their are so many free news feeds available plus the 24 hour coverage on TV.

    Good luck to them.

  • Comment number 26.

    ***"Can newspapers which have spent years giving away their content free online now start charging for it? "***

    They can charge, but whether many people will pay is an entirely different question.

    Given that switching news sites involves no more effort than a bit of typing and/or mouse clicking then any newspaper that wants to charge for its online content had better make sure that the service they provide is a lot better than any of the free alternatives.

    Being a specialist publication, the FT may get away with it, but I can't see any of the normal dailies carrying it off.

  • Comment number 27.

    FT to papers: Readers will pay for quality journalism - Yes, they will, but first let's work with this word "quality". What does quality mean?
    1. Accurate
    2. compellingly-well written
    3. relevant and
    6. unspun, unbiased, pure - “Just the facts, please.”
    I suspect you might add other aspects.
    Quality journalism will not bore me with endless clichés. It will give me substance. When it quotes one person, it will also quote his “opponent”. Enough with the unnamed sources! If a person cannot be named, I don’t care what s/he has to say because I cannot weight the merit.
    I believe that people will pay for quality journalism, and I believe what they want is less spin, and less interference from management e.g. If management is biased and that bias seeps into the journalism, this becomes a news source that is unreliable because it is not objective. The journalist allows him/herself to become the mouthpiece of some top brass who has an ego-complex or an intense need to support some cause.
    If you're going to charge, you'd better not fool around with my quality expectations, or I'll drop you like a hot potato.

  • Comment number 28.

    I suspect most people who subscribe to FT.com claim it on company expenses. You can justify an FT subscription on your expenses if it is relevant to your work, but it would be pretty difficult to justify a subscription to the likes of the Times or the Telegraph.

  • Comment number 29.

    Whilst I have no problem with paying for quality news, we need to remember that the BBC is a public service, not a profit driven organisation. So whilst we have quality reporting provided by the BBC, why would anybody pay for the tabloid dross produced by Rupert Murdoch? Here's an idea you could try Rupert!?

    Step 1. Degrade the BBC's content sufficiently to encourage people to go elsewhere for their news. (Rupert is already applying this pressure curtosy of David Cameron.) This is already evident by the degrading of HYS.

    Step 2. Provide quality journalism that people will pay for. (Now that may be a bigger challenge.)

    With headlines like: "Kerry is red-dy to move on", how can you possibly fail.

  • Comment number 30.

    I shouldn't have to pay to find out that there was an earthquake in Haiti or that MPs have misused their expenses.
    News, Weather and Sport are in the public domain.

    Can you imagine a world where you turn to a friend to ask if they heard about that earthquake and they say no because their news outlet of choice didn't want (it wasn't profitable) to cover it?

    The BBC etc have a public charter for a reason, Murdock etc just have to get used to that and find a different market - If it's not your playground you can't change the rules of the game.

    Theres also a difference between News and Journalism, much of what we read nowadays is Journalism - Opinion and Commentary. Personally I'd never pay to hear a persons views, I can make them up myself.

  • Comment number 31.

    "The BBC etc have a public charter for a reason, Murdock etc just have to get used to that and find a different market - If it's not your playground you can't change the rules of the game."

    Murdock won't get used to it, he will just put pressure on the government to force closure, or make them take the bits off that directly compete with his business.

    All whats happened this week in regards to dropping R4, Asian Radio and cutting back on the website is not to "provide better content", i think it's part of a wind down of services put in place by Murdock, and when the tories get in (and they will) the BBC will take further cuts. You mark my words.

    20 years from now, I'll be surprised if we even have a BBC left. (bet ya, we will still have to pay the license fee tho).

  • Comment number 32.

    What the FT really means to say is that SOME people will pay to read insightful information that they VALUE. However that does not translate at all to most of the gibberings of the british press. Most newspapers (and I use the term in the loosest possible way) do little more that publish opinions, bias, rumours and gossip. None of which has any value and is certainly not worth paying for.
    Most papers can't even keep an audience of readers with a free website: getting merely casual readers who have stumbled on their sites while searching for something, or from links that are published elsewhere. They're not actual destinations and very few people would have them bookmarked. When you take away free content and remove these sites from search results they'll effectively get almost no readers at all. The ones they do get will be like the majority of gym memberships: something that was taken out on impulse (or given as a gift), used a few times to start with and then ignored.
    Papers will have to raise their game to unrecognisable levels (in fact, to the level of the FT) to get any revenue - which they'd then have to fight all the other papers for a share of. I simply don't think they have the quality of staff, or quality of readership to make it pay.

  • Comment number 33.

    23. At 1:37pm on 04 Mar 2010, Hexham_Dan wrote:

    The BBC isn't the only elephant in the room. This elephant is also in the room:
    http://uk.reuters.com/news/technology

    My Reply:
    A lot of sites (the BBC included from many of the articles I've read) just rework Reuters articles.

    These days it seems very little journalism is original and investigative.
    Most reporters just reinterpret Reuters (amongst a few others).
    In some ways, you could argue that most news sites these days are little more than over-sold blogs.

  • Comment number 34.

    "Suppliers are going to have to learn that the days where they dictate what the consumer 'have' to do has gone.

    It only takes one company to break ranks and offer free and they will be a success. There might be a few deluded souls who will pay but for the majority web=free."

    Yes they'll be a success, until they go bust paying to create material on which they make no return. Or do you mean that someone will simply take other peoples content and give it away? Alas the latter is the only 'free' content model that seems to make money on the net.

  • Comment number 35.

    Apple introduced the idea of subscriptions in IPhone OS3 to kick start this type of content delivery, but with the exception of Dilbert it has not got going.
    How much would you pay for 'The Sun' app (not that Apple would allow the boobs)? 1p a day? - say £2.99 for the year?

  • Comment number 36.

    If Murdoch thinks that the world regards his journalists' output as "quality" then he's in for a shock.

  • Comment number 37.

    Journalism was invented when print technology created the opportunity to arbitage information. The channel for this information was expensive - lots of postage, horses, carrier pigeons and sailing ships. Newspapers consolidated this information into neat bundles filtered according to readership. The source of almost all this information were letters from all over the known world.
    The authors of these letters were in the main ordinary people writing to friends. Thus was born the correspondent. Most of them wrote long rambling tracts about stuff few people had any interest in. So the similarity to bloggers is obvious.

    They were not paid for their material which newspapers ran, often verbatim.
    Competition soon created professionals who wrote stuff worth reading that was entertaining. But now with the interweb the channel is free, almost everyone has camera in their phone and we only really need professionals to shepherd the information.
    The Newspaper Industry whining about a cost model is just the anguished growl of a dinosaur trapped in the tar pit of technological change that a half-dead wombat could have predicted more than twenty years ago. The decline in print media publishing - especially magazines and newspapers has been easily observed over the past fifty years.

    The print media companies had every opportunity to buy into the infrastructure of the internet, but in the main they declined, just as they did with radio, the cinema and television.

  • Comment number 38.

    Quality and trust ensures a good brand survives through thick and thin, prosperity and poverty. The BBC should have a registration for every user where they have to submit their licence fee number. Perhaps, in the spirit of the World Service and global democracy, there could be a website with brief news stories and top headlines that is free of charge. But if you want in-depth content, you should pay like the rest of us. Sky, et al, will find it difficult to charge for content because they know people would migrate to the BBC, and so they would loose advertising revenue on their websites. Good. Perhaps it would force them into having better content, delivered with integrity and innovative technology!

  • Comment number 39.

    They have no choice but to explore this new territory or dry up and blow away. The status quo is not an option. They must either accept their losses and reallocate their assets into other investments or take the proverbial leap of faith.

    What is more, I do not believe that half measures will succeed. If they take the leap, they will live or die on content direction and believability. Presently, they look a bit confused, uncommitted and standing in the middle of the road, shifting their left foot to the right foot. Their believability and motivation is unclear.

    On one hand, the grey lady slaps out at banksters and, then, throws rosebuds and garlands to the militants in the promised land. All that and more mixed signals. One might compare it to a cardiac patient's decision to go ahead with major heart surgery.

  • Comment number 40.

    There is this fashionable view that anything old (and the definition of old is "existing before the World Wide Web was invented") deserves to no longer be supported or paid for. Personally I don't want a bonfire of the printing presses for 200-300 year-old newspapers just yet.

    To correct #3, the Guardian is now £1 per weekday. Not every single job that appears in the single edition I purchase each week, appears on its jobs website. Its jobs website has all the details but isn't secure and I'd never register on a site without SSL unless I was extremely desparate. My last two full time jobs, came from paper adverts in the Evening Standard when it was 50p per day. So can we stop pretending that news is the sole reason people might buy a newspaper, even in cities where there are multiple free copies for the news.

    The Guardian has the right idea - the content is free, but you can only find the specific sections from the index page, on that weekday (eg Money on Saturdays). The rest of the week, it's not blocked, just not appearing instantly from the Index page, you have to search for it yourself, making it easier to just wait for the next week if you miss it.

    So the online content I pay for, comes from the BBC, but you can't cut yourself off from any source of jobs, whether online or in print.

  • Comment number 41.

    As a subscriber to the FT let's be clear, you don't have to pay to have a look at the site. You do have to pay if you look at too much and for certain comment sections. You have to pay a lot more for a few specialised sections, all on subscription. The BBC is not really a rival in this specialised market.

    The real user problem is not news but archive. I from time to time search the newspaper sites for particular topics and even link to them. A search may require looking at more than five articles (the probably cut off for free). So it will be a longer job and linking may be useless. Micro payment might work for this a a penny per article

    Of course in the old days I went to the Public Library, consulted the newspapers index, and called up the micro fiche.

    Incidentally I am surprised people tell newspapers their jobs. After all I have business name which does not trade and that will do!

  • Comment number 42.

    " "Suppliers are going to have to learn that the days where they dictate what the consumer 'have' to do has gone.

    It only takes one company to break ranks and offer free and they will be a success. There might be a few deluded souls who will pay but for the majority web=free."

    Yes they'll be a success, until they go bust paying to create material on which they make no return. Or do you mean that someone will simply take other peoples content and give it away? Alas the latter is the only 'free' content model that seems to make money on the net."

    How do you know they won't make a return? If more people visit them because their competitors are trying to charge their advertising revenue should go up.

    The fact is that there are a lot of old industries desperately trying to prop themselves up by trying to change the nature and philosophy of the Internet.

    As far as I'm concerned they should stand or fail on their ability to adapt. If they fail new companies will come in and fill the gap and the process will repeat until someone finds something that works. These old industries deserve no loyalty whatsoever. If its ok for them to be concerned with just the bottom line then it must be ok for the consumer to do the same.

  • Comment number 43.

    FT to papers: Readers will pay for quality journalism

    So what they are saying is that most existing UK newspapers can't become pay sites.

  • Comment number 44.

    Considering most of today's news consists of "celebrity gossip", I'd rather not hear thanks. If the BBC go "pay as you go" then I'll just take the "go option". I pay my TV license which entitles me to xyz services at no (additional) cost and if i had a choice in that, I wouldn't pay that either and go without the BBC (although I don't, it's FORCED on me even though this is the only BBC service I use and yes, I WOULD give it up if it meant no more license).

  • Comment number 45.

    New Scientist just recently started charging for content. I have hardly visited it since. I think it's a fantastic publication, but can get most of the info elsewhere.

  • Comment number 46.

    I can't see an alternative to paying for newspaper content in some way if the press is to survive. I will be one of the first in the queue to buy an iPad and will subscribe to the Financial Times. Problem is, apart from the New Scientist,the Guardian and Prospect (if they decide to [publish on line), I can't think of another newspaper or magazine worth subscribing to! I am looking forward to the new magazines etc., that will be created in response to the new iPad medium. Another point in response to the Murdoch empire, I do pay for BBC web content on line as do all good citizens of the British Isles through my license fee. Unlike 'badger_fruit', above I consider that I and my family get good value for money from the BBC and would have it no other way! But the World is changing apace.

  • Comment number 47.

    Free BBC news should always be with us because the BBC is the only organisation providing completely unbiased, honest news. The BBC provides very good quality journalism and speakts to people in an intelligent manner which they can understand. It's not pompous, it's not childish, it's straight forward unbiased facts.

    The problem facing many newspapers is that they don't provide quality journalism. Murdoch is the worst offerder. Through his Sun newspaper, he takes every opportunity he gets to insult the BBC to try and create some sort of frenzied reaction from its readers.

    He's giving Gordon Brown the same treatment. While the BBC publishes every story in an open and fair way regarding all political parties, the Sun relishes on stories which insult Brown and praise Cameron. How can we possibly call a newspaper fair in journalistic terms when it openly admits to heavily favouring one particular party? How is that journalism? It isn't, it's just opinion.

    The BBC treats all political parties equally, as it treats all news equally. They state the facts then leave it up to the readers to amke their own minds up. They have lots of debates (like this one) and lots of opinion, but they don't confuse opinion with news. News is about facts and fairness, if you want to insult people or companies because you don't like them, that's just opinion.

    The problem facing the Sun, Mirror, Star and all the other cheap newspapers, is that all their news is heavily biased and opinionated. People might pay to read quality press, but they certainly won't pay to read the latest rant from Rupert Murdoch about what he thinks of the BBC, Gordon Brown, or anyone else who he's trying to setup as a villain.

    Just look at the Sun website versus the BBC news site for comparison. The BBC lists its stories in an unbiased, sensible way. The Sun is still using the shock treatment, in both pictures and words. Intelligent people are bored with it, they want to read the facts, not some over the top editors opinion of them.

    When the BBC publishes a story which features content from other sites, they publish a list of links so readers can check the sites for themselves. Papers like the Sun don't list any links at all, not even to sites which are featured in the main story. They refuse to link to Youtube, instead they slap adverts in front of the videos and host them themselves. They don't publish any links so that readers can followup and get other peoples opinion, pictures and facts. They don't care about others, all they care about is themselves and their own opinion. And they expect people to pay for their opinion when they do their best to shut out anything and anyone who disagrees!

    The BBC is a national treasure, and it's our only protection against ruthless tabloid editors who will stop at nothing to incite hared, fear and violence to increase their readership. They hype up everything they print. The BBC always puts the national interest first. Newspapers like the Sun put themselves first time and time again, they set their own agenda, create their own villains, revel in all the false publicity then expect people to pay.

    When it comes down to it, journalism is all about trust. People will pay if they have trust. Is there anyone on the planet that trusts the Sun to provide them with accurate, unbiased, honest facts? No, of course not, they'll only state their own heavily biased opinion depending on how it benefits them. No wonder Murdoch is worried, I sure would be.

 

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