Paid Content IS The Future

Let me preface this by saying this is all in my own very humble opinion based on my experience having worked for my local NBC affiliate.  Of course, this post will also be backed up by sources that I encourage you to view for yourself.

A recent article by PaidContent:UK introduces the idea that TimesOnline will go paid-only in the spring with the Sunday Times to follow suit shortly thereafter.  This stemmed brief discussion in Twitter streams not long after the article was published.  Is the future of internet journalism really going to be a paid model?  The short answer is yes.  With advertising dollars on a significant decline, media conglomerates are looking outside of the box to offset the shortfalls. 

One solution is to either require subscription-only services or to offer a premium subscription service as is the case with uber-successful Fox News host, Bill O’Reilly, who has seemed to have made a name for himself in the paid content arena.  O’Reilly offers a slew of premium member benefits to those that pay for it.  Anything from exclusives like video clips, a nightly critique of his show immediately following sign-off, weekly “back stage chats”, and priority email to name a few.  Fox and O’Reilly figured out how to make money by delivering a kind of “special guest” service to their very special “guests” by giving them what they would want that they would pay for. 

I have long subscribed to the “free is good” mentality.  However, notice that I didn’t say “free is best” because, let’s face it, free isn’t always best.  The old adage, “You get what you pay for” rings true more often than not. 

Think about it.  Without naming any particular discount stores, sometimes the quality of the discounted merchandise is not as up to par as the higher-priced item at the department store around the corner.  While I realize I’m not talking about free items here, I think you get the point. 

When it comes to online content, if a person searching for a particular topic wants to read, listen, or watch the subject matter from a reliable, accredited, & trusted source, they are going to search for that source first.  That person relies on the expertise (from the experience, from the education, etc.) of the person who is providing the content.  It’s no wonder that people will eventually pay for that.  Add to it the option for exclusivity, well then, my friends, you have a win-win situation.

From another standpoint, print media currently offers subscription services for their content.  Why wouldn’t they offer it online as well?  And equally important, if a consumer is going to get something of value in return, why wouldn’t they pay for it?  I’m not just talking about a standard subscription either, obviously. 

The key to making this particular business model work is to find out what your customers want and give it to them.  If it’s standard, then keep it standard.  BUT, if it’s premium, then by golly, for the time, expertise, and resources it costs to create that content, that extra value, there should be an additional charge for that.

When I was first unemployed, I would give FREE presentations to local Chamber and non-profit organizations on the subject of social/new media, traditional public relations, marketing, and combining it all.  I did that initially to get myself out there, to show people that I do know what I’m talking about, to gain contacts for either that perfect brand new job or additonal clients for my freelance business.  Then, I woke up. 

I realized I was paying for the gas in the car I drive, for the maintenance of the car I drive, for my cell phone bill, for my expertise, background, education, etc. with nothing but what I had either in my bank account or through my weekly unemployment check and I began to feel cheated.  That’s when I turned things around and now (for the most part) I request payment for any presentations I give. 

My point, if you want something for free, sure, you’ll get it but will it be of greater value to you because it’s free?  Most likely not.  Again, you get what you pay for.  Not to mention, the folks providing the service should be paid for their education, experience, & expertise.  If advertising dollars can’t sustain that, then something else should supplement it.

All this to say that I fully believe the future of some online content will a paid model of some sort.  I also fully believe consumers will pay for it if it’s of value to them.  Bill O’Reilly has already proven that…and he’s just one example.

I encourage you to view the following two articles for further information.  One talks of Rupert Murdoch’s plans for News Corp to dive into the paid content arena in 2010 and the other article describes the “O’Reilly Factor” also in the paid content realm.

“News Corp Will Charge for Newspaper Websites, says Rupert Murdoch” –

“Newspapers Take Note: Offers Paid Content That Works” –

What do you think?  Add your comments below and I may use them for a follow up post!


Lisa 🙂

4 Responses to “Paid Content IS The Future”
  1. lasullivan says:

    Crystal…nothing wrong with getting paid for what value you provide.

    Maryann…thanks for reading! I know you’re in a position where your company is finding new & innovative ways to keep the profits coming in. I’ll bet you’ve already begun thinking outside that box!

    Heather O…this about sums it up –

    “The key is that the old business mentality of ‘you get what you get’ or ‘take it or leave it’ won’t fly!
    People will have many choices and don’t have to ‘take it’!
    Those who give people what they want will ‘get it’:)”

    Thank you ladies for your input!

  2. heathero says:

    I agree Lisa, I see that trend in many other areas as well. I think this year we will see a LOT of membership sites and other examples of ‘paid content’.
    I think there are a couple of reasons…
    1. where would the world be if everything became free?
    2. we are coming out of the shock and awe and economic coma and now value things differently (IMO) and recognize THE value of things differently.

    I believe that the key difference in the ‘new trend’ from the old mass media “you gotta buy it to get it’ is that value is still given first! In most cases where the paid model is working and has been working (like O’Reilly), there is free content and value provided. People have the opportunity to see and read and decide if they like and want more.
    May not seem that different, but it is! In the past we paid for it, and were stuck if we didn’t like it. That’s how it was, and what we were used to. To see cable, pay first! Want to read the news, buy a paper.
    People have been able to listen to Rush for years for free (whether you like him or not, it’s a good example;). Yes there were advertisers for the radio show, etc…but you could listen to him online as a paid subscriber. You could call into the show free, or send a question if you were a subscriber. People sign up to pay because they love him and want more.
    The key is that the old business mentality of ‘you get what you get’ or ‘take it or leave it’ won’t fly!
    People will have many choices and don’t have to ‘take it’!
    Those who give people what they want will ‘get it’:)

  3. maryann says:

    interesting opinion…and I am glad you are now getting paid to speak on your expertise! You deserve it!!!

  4. Crystal Roberts says:

    When I offered to help a friend with some editing work, she told me she insisted on paying me. I insisted that I wouldn’t accept it. She said, “This is business, purely business, and as your friend, I will not allow you to do this for me gratis.” She’s now my client AND my friend.

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