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January 17, 2009

Free is not a business model

As newspapers die off and everyone scrambles to work out what revenue model will support the news industry in the future.

Starting from the beginning - there really is a need. Journalism, real journalism not just opinions, protects democracy and informs our lives. We like it, we use it but would we pay for it?

I pay for a few online subscriptions. I pay for Aberdeen Group s benchmarking and analytical reports. And I pay for  and a petrochemical site. (I have just started to subscribe to that one so I am not ready to link to it yet.)

All of these sites provide news that is hard to find, and something that I, in my day job, can get some value out of. In fact, it helps me to craft my marketing materials and to sales strategies.

But news? news is everywhere. it is neither scarce nor is it of value. Why? Because it is abundant. Within a few minutes of an event happening there is a virtual landslide of sites posting what is essentially the same story.

Some have done it pretty well, but most are not able to duplicate their off-line success. They have not been able to capitalize on their relationships with their readers in time, and now they have developed new relationships.

Perhaps it will take a severe culling of the news industry until news becomes scarce enough to become a paid model on a large scale. Maybe an iTunes model  for downloading and purchasing reports, analysis and content of value?

What content will you pay for? Does it also have to be scarce and of value before you will do so?

Free is not an advertising model, and side lined ads are not going to support all of the online media sources. Paid content is one of the models that could provide some form of future - but not for everyone.