People Will Never Pay for Content — But They Already Are

We said at the beginning of the year that 2010 would be the year of the paywall.   It certainly is turning out that way, with magazines commanding a regal price for their iPad editions, Hulu is going to try to push a subscription piece, and the Times coming up with a metered model next year.  The big question is, and will remain, whether people will be willing to pay for it.  Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia said, in his Online Spin column that unequivocably, they won’t.  Here’s, according to him, is why these efforts are doomed to failure:

  1. Consumers say in focus groups that they will pay for what they are now getting for nothing, but that doesn’t tend to translate into actual purchases
  2. Companies like Hulu, without a lot of direct marketing experience, will have a very steeAp learning curve.
  3. All of the high-profile companies that are going to be required to see results fast forget that this is a long process – it took the Wall Street Journal 10 years to build.
  4. The economy is still pretty awful, and people are being very cautious about what they shell out for.

A Forrester analyst, though, feels that people are already paying for content, for instance in high speed access and Netflix accounts.  But really, what they are willing to pay for is the access to content, not the content itself. And, says James McQuivey,

They will pay even more for that in the future as 4G becomes a reality. …That’s why when I’m advising a publisher or programmer, I encourage them to focus on access. Make more content available, on more devices, in the most convenient ways possible. Today, that might mean developing a beautiful iPad app for a magazine, but tomorrow that means developing a new content experience altogether, with personal clippings, recommended stories, all of it socially enhanced to reflect not just what I want to read but what my community is reading and discussing. That is a type of access, too, and it’s one that goes beyond what Google can return as a search result.


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