Paid Content vs. Free Content, Apple vs. Google, Web Browsers vs. Apps…as we enter a new phase of digital media who will emerge victorious?

September 13th, 2010
by
paperboy

Image: www.aftermathnews.wordpress.com

In March 2009 I wrote my first blog post, here on BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas, about how emerging technologies and platforms were changing the way we consume news – supported by input I gathered from a media summit I had attended that featured panelists such as Joe Scarborough from MSNBC’s Morning Joe and BBC’s Rome Hartman.

I wrote, “And with the rise of ‘citizen journalism’ and this ‘Pro-Am’ partnership that is developing with media, the panel agreed that consumers will have a stronger need for trusted brands, filtering, and editing to help navigate the media.” A year and a half later, the cream seems to be rising to the top in this fragmented media universe.

Today the “trusted brands,” such as The New York Times, are beginning to abandon the old business model of offering free content in exchange for paid advertisements. They are instead looking to generate additional revenue by putting their text, audio, and video behind pay walls or by offering their content as an app for a small fee. “I think we should have done it years ago,” said David Firestone, a deputy national news editor commenting on the NYT’s decision to put some of their content behind paywalls beginning in 2011. “As painful as it will be at the beginning, we have to get rid of the notion that high-quality news comes free.”

The Times Co. Chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. added, “This is a bet, to a certain degree, on where we think the Web is going…This is not going to be something that is going to change the financial dynamics overnight.”

In fact, no one is sure where the web is going; this undeniable shift away from free content will certainly make life more difficult for the Googles of the world who rely on free content to fuel their search engine. Consumers may turn to company’s like Apple for their media, who adopted the “paid content” model early on by making content available for small fees through iTunes and more recently showing consumers how convenient it is to access a magazine or newspaper digitally for a small fee on their iPad.

 Fox News this week launched its new iPhone political app, available through iTunes for 99 cents. “The idea is that this is your essential guide to daily political news,” says Chris Stirewalt, Fox News digital politics editor, “to put power into peoples’ hands to give them the opportunity in this history making, nation shaping election, to have the tools at hand so that they can really understand and add to the depth of their experience.”

With more people opting to have their media pushed to their smart phones and iPads rather than retrieving information over the Internet it will be interesting to see how this affects web browser traffic. As free content slowly disappears, news websites and aggregators such as the Drudge Report and the Daily Beast may have a tougher time filling their sites with the hyperlinks that contain the raw material that drives much of their sites traffic. Instead the eyeballs will be looking in other directions – with more people willing to pay for content this may ultimately prove to be the antidote that saves a hemorrhaging newspaper industry.

It appears we are on the verge of coming full circle on how we get our news. We’ve gone from relying on newsstands and subscriptions to searching and accessing free content online, only to return to paying the publishers directly once again for their content through app fees and online subscriptions.

Paperboys and newsstand operators may be on the verge of extinction; however, content providers like newspapers, network, and cable TV and movie studios may have the final say in how their product is consumed after all.

As public relations and marketing professionals, how are you getting your news? How do you think the evolving media landscape will affect your ability to successfully conduct media relations and assess the value of your efforts?

4 Responses to “Paid Content vs. Free Content, Apple vs. Google, Web Browsers vs. Apps…as we enter a new phase of digital media who will emerge victorious?”

  1. I think it was an insightful analysis. Content is definitely moving towards non free. I think the problem will be how to find news for people who paid for it, but don’t knwo exactly what they are looking for. So the future of news depends on how good you are at serving up, what I have called a “Short List” of stuff that is good without knowing what the customer is searching for to begin with. I have described this in more detail on my own blog here http://opaqueparcels.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/the-long-tail-and-the-short-list-google-vs-apple/
    I believe this is a new trend, of course championed by Apple, and emulated by others.
    Thanks for a great post.

  2. Harry Grapenthin says:

    Hi, Thank you for your reply. In the end I believe consumers will resort back to the trusted names in Media for their news and won’t mind paying for it. If the trend continues with news sources putting their content behind pay walls and charging app fees for their content,there will be few free alternatives left for consumers to acces credible journalism.

  3. Autosurf says:

    Autosurf…

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  4. digital,magazines publishing…

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