Sunday, February 27, 2005

Adam Penenberg writes in Wired about how he feels that the WSJ is in danger of losing relevance online. Actually, this is a conundrum that I'm sure many respected paper publications face right now. The Wall Street Journal charges for everything. The NYT grants you access to the latest stuff with a free login, but archives more than a week old cost you money.

In the case of news, isn't the value chain exactly the reverse? The latest news is the most valuable, while the not-so-latest news is possibly not. Wouldn't it make more economic sense to actually charge for latest, to-the-minute access, and gradually make it free for everyone to access?

Not everyone can afford the prices these papers charge for online access, and that puts them in a bit of a spot. And as the article states, the blog ecosystem has no place for paid access, and a shift of power to increasingly influential bloggers means that these publications are losing out on potential customers.

Also, in this age with the markets being so wired, the potential customer for the WSJ or the NYT is not just in New York or the suburbs. He may be anywhere in the world.

The way forward for them would be to use ads, and the print edition to somehow creatively monetize their content to make money off it, and open access to older content. Maybe newer content (say: breaking news, today's edition) could be available for paid customers.

There may be better, more value-added things that they may provide for paid access. The Internet was meant to be a disintermediary - something that would remove the middleman. With the information glut we have now, we need intermediaries to process information again. (Look at the number of subscribers has, when you can get a lot of the same information in raw form on EDGAR . Ditto for all the travel sites).

The WSJ of all publications is in the best possible position to be an intermediary to people negotiating the minefield that is business today. The NYT may not be as well positioned in this regard, but I'm sure they'll have some ideas.


Cathy said...

Don't think customers will pay for the latest many websites offering the latest n greatest news for free.

The only way for online publications to make money is the way Google makes money...through advertisements.

Ajay said...

I agree. Maybe not for news, but for analysis and op-ed pieces, there may be business customers willing to pay more. Financial institutions generally give a premium to information.If you see what they pay for Bloomberg or Reuters feeds, it makes sense. Ads will have to be part of the mix too, and regular news items can have ads via Google or Yahoo or something. Interestingly, Wired magazine follows this strategy in a different way. The articles in the magazine don't come online immediately, but are staggered. So subscribers get to read them first, but eventually everyone has access to them.

Hirak said...

Old pages of the newspaper also have their value. Strictly speaking, not news 'news' but op-ed pieces, articles on certain subjects.
It's hard to refer people to read stuff on the NYT or the WSJ since many can't get access. Prefer Wired's format. Better late than never!

Ajay said...

When I say 'value', I mean economic value.As in, will people pay for it? As articles get older, they retain historical and archival value, but they'll lose economic value.People are less likely to pay for it. Which is why archives are maintained by public libraries.