…There is no good reason that online content should be free, other than “people are used to it.” Is it impossible to persuade people to pay for something they are used to getting for free? Not at all. Online music downloads are a good example; so is television. While TV had been free since its inception, large numbers of people proved willing to pay for cable and digital television.
Newspapers and newsmagazines have tried to use the subscription method, as well as the pay-as-you-want system made popular by iTunes where a reader might pay a couple cents for a story. These have not worked.
Young suggests a different approach:
A better approach may be to make news and analysis content available only through media portals or carriers, similar to cable television providers. A subscription to a carrier would give access to any news site (newspaper, magazine, blog) that is a part of its package. The subscription price could vary depending on level of consumption: say, $20 a month for 40 hours of media access, $40 for 100 hours, and so on. Or the cost of a subscription could vary depending on which publications are included, while content outside the customer’s standard package could be available for one-time micropayments. Different media portals could experiment with different fee scales. This would allow people to surf the Web without having to ponder each click of a link. Revenues could be distributed to individual websites depending on their readership.
This is an interesting idea and it’s worth a try. Everything is worth a try at this point. But again, the Internet is so big and so open that it shouldn’t come as a surprise when consumers find a way around the portals and carriers and get their content for free.