After Rupert Murdoch said a couple of months ago that the Wall St. Journal is considering charging again for access to its web site, the industry has been discussing his wisdom or lack of it.  Surely, the newspaper industry made a mistake in giving content away for free after the Internet became a mass market reality.  But that’s not to say that people would be forking over $5-10 month for subscriptions to myriad publications.  In fact, a decision to do so might have had consequences on the reality of today’s Internet that we can’t comprehend.  But it’s all water under the bridge.  It’s free and except for Murdoch and Steven Brill of Journalism Online, few executives are talking about it to their subscribers.  But they’re considering it.

The question is “How would you charge, and would that make up for loss online ad revenue?”

Alan Mutter cites research that suggests it’s not much.

Asked what they would spend for a monthly subscription to the newspaper’s site, the respondents willing to pay for news said that they would cough up an average of $4.64. But, Harmon noted, 211 respondents, or fully 47% of the group, said they would not pay at all.

If half the people won’t pay at all, is an online subscription fee plausible?  Maybe.

Right now I haven’t heard much about the details of a business model for online content.  And there’s where the devil resides. 

  • Would you give away online access for free to newsprint subscribers? 
  • Could there be co-ops formed to sell packages of content, i.e., get the Wash. Post, NY Times, Wall St. Journal, USA Today, LA Times & Chicago Trib all for one price. 
  • Could newspapers form partnerships with visual organizations to package say CNN with the Times, the Post with ABC, etc.?
  • Could they offer substantial discounts or even free access in return for participation in online marketing surveys?
  • Could the purchase of an item from an online advertiser on the site, return a 3-month free subscription to the site?
  • Could bloggers get discounts or free access in return for better acknowledgement of linked sources.  (It’s a concern of some organizations that bloggers just link to a story without also writing something like “according to the Wall St. Journal,” as is the practice among traditional news organizations.  Monitoring this would be a challenge.)
  • Could associations negotiate discounts for access to news sites.  I’m not sure there is a bloggers association, but if there were, they might get a deal for their members.

But the bigger question is if news organizations decided it was worth trying and ultimately decided it was financially worth it, what would happen to the political blogosphere?