Will paid content ever work for publishing sites?
Today after lunch I was chatting with a colleague about some of the business models we see applicable in the content publishing industry. One of the models that almost all publishers try to implement one way or another is paid content.
Only I can not see that happening..
Magazine and news websites all over the world are eyeing the idea of getting paid by their readers instead of monetizing through advertising alone.
Many attempts have been made to achieve that yet the reality shows little acceptance of having to pay for the stuff you read online.
In our discussion we agreed that we both can not see this changing. People will never willingly pay for content online that they are so used to consume for free.
Having said that I had the very same opinion about the German tv market where private broadcast stations also have to finance themselves through advertising alone. People pay their state backed stations via a fee and the other programs come for free. Never would I have seen that the German public would be willing to pay for bundles of tv channels on a monthly basis like it is common for years now in the US.
But slowly this is happening.
How? Well there was an innovation in the tv market: HDTV.
This allowed stations to tailor their portfolio quite differently. Good quality for paid tv channels and good enough quality for their free channels. Suddenly paid tv is becoming acceptable as people expect more from their viewing experience than the old free channels provide.
But how is such an innovation to take place on the internet? An innovation that allows to provide the same content in two different ways – one for free but of low quality and the other rather high quality but paid?
As innovations go you can not foresee them anyhow but I can not even imagine what could allow a quality differentiation of the same content given that you dont want to provide different contents.
So no I still don’t believe in this business model to be capable to provide more than a marginal turnover.
Update: I continued on this topic in part 2.