Make me pay!

September 13, 2011

I read an article recently (thanks as ever to the Guardian), which argued that Steve Jobs’ legacy was likely to be persuading us all to pay for content.

Make me pay!

Interestingly, (and I never knew this) the music companies only ever agreed to let Apple resell their music because of Apple’s relatively tiny market share; Jobs persuaded them that the risk posed to them from potential file sharing was minimal. I can’t help but think that Jobs had an inkling that this wouldn’t always be the case. Luckily for him, he was gambling with someone else’s product. Luckily for the music companies, Apple changed the game.

I buy most of my music from iTunes, and I still buy the odd CD. When I was a teenager, I downloaded from file sharing sites, and I’m not really sure what made me stop. Somewhere along the way, I started to believe that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. The power of Apple, I guess.

A couple of years ago, I was in a discussion about the newspapers who were asking us to pay for their online content, and argued that, once you gave us something for free, you couldn’t subsequently ask us to pay for the same thing. That’s logical, right? But then, content is content, right? Somehow, I’ve been persuaded that music is worth paying for again, maybe the same is true for journalistic content. In fact, maybe even more so, because unlike music where we’re getting the same content regardless of its source, this is not a standard product.

People don’t need a newspaper for news anymore, that much is clear. But, they still go to newspapers for commentary, and to read the musings of individual journalists whose opinions matter to them. Newspapers are still providing content that can’t be found elsewhere, and as we’ve seen with Satellite TV; that is something people will pay for.

But what does that mean for journalistic content we see online? This is the nut they haven’t cracked. They haven’t convinced me why they’re better or different or why I should pay, other than providing some vague ‘quality’ argument that really stems from a heritage that belongs to their offline brand. They will have to decide what the distinct advantage of their online product is, invest in that, and sell it to us.

If they can crack that, I think they can follow in the footsteps of satellite TV companies; they should be able to have it all; make consumers pay for content, and sell advertising around it too!

Claire

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