Originally published at mypaper-blog.tumblr.com.

Why you have to say good bye to free news

Take in and digest a couple of points why we will see fewer and fewer free good-quality news pieces. And also why we will bury the paradigm of the Internet being a place where everything is always free — soon.

Ever since the Internet surfaced about two decades ago, two things were certain in (online) journalism: (i) Papers would rack their brains about how to get their website visitors to pay for their content and (ii) those visitors’ certainty that the currency they’re paying the news with is their attention (to advertisements) only, not real money.

This is changing now and we will see expedited speed in that development.

Why is that so?

1. Users are becoming aware of the value of independent journalism.

US-business journalist Olivia Barrow approaches with a similar angle and says ‘being a part of a club is hot these days’ in her blog post about the death of the free news. What is true is that younger to middle-aged and rather more educated people realize more and more how important staying informed is. While at the end of 2011, as few as 21% of people in the US were willing to spend five dollars for (paid-for) online news, that figure jumped to 40% of people who are already paying for online news in late 2014. Monstrous revelations like the whistleblower Ed Snowden’s uncovering of the NSA scandal, prominently covered in the Guardian and The Washington Post support the image of how important the ‘fourth power of the state’ is for a democratic and free society. Likewise, paid-for platforms like the news media startup The Correspondent who reached just over 40,000 digital subscribers in only a year prove that people become more aware of how important independently financed journalism is; and that they are ready to finance it.

2. It will become way easier for users to conveniently pay for content.

Current paywalls or subscription models have one immense Achilles’ heel: They still make it incredibly cumbersome and painful for visitors to convert to paying subscribers. Even if the visitors are willing, the sheer necessity of newspapers to have the potential user enter a lot of (billing) information in a lengthy signup process creates a threshold most prospect users are not willing to tackle. Hence, you see the low conversion rates that all in the journalism ecosphere nag about. Even a conversion rate of 3.5% for Swedish flagship paper Aftonbladet is seen as an impressive metric in the industry already, levelling them at almost a quarter million subscribers for their premium content.

More sophisticated solutions will be engaging the convenience issue in the field of paid content with simplicity. Just compare the current sign up process for a digital subscription at the Wall Street Journal on the top to the way you will be accessing journalism in the future on the bottom. So convenient and simple it’s almost ridiculous.

The WSJ’s current old-school sign-up process at their paywall and…

…a much smarter solution with the single sign-on service mypaper.

3. Out of necessity to do the same thing other businesses also do: selling their core product.

Newspapers are special businesses on many levels but they have one important thing in common with all other businesses in any industry: they are selling a product. And in the media industry, the product is information, insight, analysis and opinion transmitted via articles and other journalistic pieces on their website and on paper. With the paper more and more vanishing and hence ad revenue dwindling, publishers come under pressure to monetize other assets. Online ad revenue is far from being a too impressive metric so that more and more publishers realize that they have to monetize their core product one way or the other: Their content.

These three major points combined — value-aware and thus ready-to-pay users, more easy and straightforward technical ways to pay and the financial necessity to make the leap and ask users to pay — will lead to the extinction of the totally free great-quality news. But this is nothing to worry as it is a logical and natural market movement everyone will benefit from in the long-run.

And with more easy ways to click-pay and immediately view content, one can move forward and foster the media’s stance as the fourth power in the state: By adequately financing them by purchasing their valuable goods — information, insight, analysis and opinion. Luckily, this will have become way easier before you know it.

Think we forgot something really important? Mention it in the comments!
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by Sebastian Höfinger

@the_hofinger

© mypaper


Originally published at mypaper-blog.tumblr.com.