Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved
Joshua Topolsky

Something that has long struck me about this transitional process is the failure of the traditional print medium to monetize itself by anything other than traditional methods: The subscription model and advertising.

When you speak of directed and/or local content and say, “Hell, they might even pay for it,” the gut response is, Sure, we probably all would. If you can provide the Right Thing for the Right People, the Right People would even feel better about themselves for paying for it — but at the right price and precisely for what they want.

We’re in the gravitational spin of free, or pay for a package that wasn’t customized for you (for anyone other than an imagined community of shared interests)—or simply trolley through the bargain basement, “everything must go” aisles of click-bate trash. I simplify for brevity.

Am I naive in thinking there’s another way, that a primary shift that needs to happen is to allow Readers — and, yes, I want to use that word in caps— to be able and to be allowed to pay as they go in the pursuit of their interests without subscribing to everything, without signing up for email updates, for newsletters, without providing personal credit-card details, and without lasso-like strings attached, to read one thing here and another elsewhere?

Is it equally naive to ask whether online payment systems have failed to adapt to the internet—and that news media have simultaneously failed to demand that they do so?

This is another way of saying that the Darwinism of online micro-payments—particularly in the absence of a god-metric that can measure the value of clicks versus actual consumption—could be key to media stakeholders re-evaluating where their value reposes. It could also reassure advertisers that they’re not throwing their budgets into a locust-swarm void of devour-and-depart clicks.