FT: people will pay for general news content

There is a longish piece in the New York Times over the weekend looking at The Financial Times and its paid content strategy. The paper quotes John Ridding, the chief executive of the FT, insisting that people will pay for general news content.

It’s a sort of Field of Dreams approach. You know, charge them and they will p(l)ay approach. I’m sure Shoeless Joe Jackson is on his way. There is an argument that if you say it enough you will convince not only yourself, but others out there as well (I’m not sure it is a very good one though).

From the NY Times piece:

For other online publishers seeking to charge readers, the big question is whether consumers would be willing to pay for general news, as opposed to specialized financial news.

Some analysts doubt it, but Mr. Ridding said he thought they might. “I sometimes think there’s too much fatalism around — people throwing up their hands and saying it’s not possible for general publishers to charge,” Mr. Ridding said. “I think it is possible, and necessary, for them to charge.”

It’s a tag team approach. Ridding’s comments come a couple of weeks after Financial Times editor Lionel Barber told Channel 4 News why news organisations have to act now and charge for online content (and how they can do it like the FT).

More interesting that Riding’s comments, which I think are plain wrong (people will not pay for general news — lucky for the FT as it does not deal specifically in general news), is that the New York Times ran such a piece in the first place. Maybe the paper was just giving its readers a heads up of the charges that it is preparing to levy although the piece gives no new details on that.

What it feels like right now is like the dam is slowly cracking and any moment now the floodgates will open. Rupert Murdoch is planning some online charging coup and the Guardian Media Group is talking about “members clubs”. Whose next?


  • Stuart Kilroy

    come on – who in their right mind will pay for news content when you can get it for free? The reason people are not buying newspapers anymore is because the internet offers a better more accesible service for free!

    The BBC and other websites, plus other consumption channels (TV, radio, etc) will still offer news content for free, so why would you go elsewhere to pay for it?

    For me it smacks of desparation as the news companies are too inept to make their business models work. Sort out your websites and make money through advertising! job done.

  • Gordon Macmillan

    Agreed; but the FT speaks from a pulpit position. it already lucked into making money out of news people will pay for.

  • Trevor Schoenfeld

    Paid content is coming. Paid content is going to drastically change the perception of ‘free’ information. Whereas everyone agreed that free was an ‘inalienable’ right and a founding tenant of the internet, the markers are slowly being set for the delineation between those who value ‘membership’ within a certain news family and those who don’t. Advertisers who seek HNW individuals and other groups who may be more ‘valuable’ as consumers will pay a premium to place their ads in online news pubs, assuming that if someone is paying for content, they can afford or are more likely to ‘click through’ to the advertisers’ sites. It’s a starting point. But it’s coming.

  • Ash Allan

    I think people will pay for good quality content in the future that they can’t get elsewhere. The FT has a very good reputation (and deserved), so people will pay for their news – why should they give that away for free? Any paper in the same position should also charge.

    Advertising can’t support all online news sites, so those with something decent to say that can’t find the money from somewhere else will have to charge.

    Newspapers and magazines that give their content away for free in printed form will have a job charging for it online of course.

    However, I think that in many areas charging for online content (that is original and good) will grow.

    The BBC isn’t free anyway – we pay for it. And there is no way such a good news site could survive on advertising. It’s an anomoly, not the norm.

    When the FT launched FT.com it was with a free content policy and quickly lost a small fortune and had to copy the Wall Street Journal model of charging for some parts of its content. Charging for content is not just a theory it’s a profitable business reality.

  • http://graewood.blogspot.com/ Graeme Wood

    @Trevor – it might be coming, but in a country where we already pay £11.50 per household per month for ‘free’ news, it will struggle to get a foothold against the BBC. And even if it does, the trade off that we all understand as licence fee payers is free but contains ads vs paid but no ads.