The Internet Paywall

Mon, Feb 1, 2010, by Inna Tysoe

Search Engines

Publishers are beginning to charge for e-content. Will it work?

It’s beginning to look like we’re going to pay—or pay more—for content we get digitally.  First, the Economist announced that 2010 will be the year of the paywall with many newspapers such as the New York Times, the Guardian, the Times of London and others charging for content under different schemes.  The reason (apparently) is the decline of online advertising revenue.  And just today, Amazon gave in to Macmillan’s demand that customers pay between $12.99 and $14.99 for Macmillan e-books.  As Peter Kafka points out, this probably means that e-book prices across the board will be going up.  Publishers are even beginning to research the pros and cons of making money off tweets.

So what does this all mean for the way in which we will surf the web in 2010?  Quite a lot, actually.  For starters, as normblog points out, “this is not good news for bloggers.”  It isn’t good news for blog readers either.  If the best a blogger can do is re-type an article or (due to copyright laws) summarize it, the reader, will have to trust the blogger to get the story right.  In other words, you will have to trust that the amateur (generally speaking) news reporter will not read what he/she wants to read but what’s actually there.  And how much credibility will even big, well-established news blogs such as Huffington Post continue to have if they can no longer direct their readers to articles in the New York Times?

It’s also not good news for Google, Yahoo, and other search engines.  According to a recent study, approximately 26 percent of readers use Google to find news stories.  Will people continue to do that if they know they are unlikely to read the articles free of charge?  (This is unlikely to impact the 44 percent of readers that, the same study found only glance at the headlines on Google.)

As for e-books, the prices that Amazon and other s now charge will make used bookstores competitive once more.  It remains to be seen, of course, if people will stop using their kindles and start using the used book stores but, in these times especially, it seems a distinct possibility.

So will charging for Internet content work?  Will the paywalls make publishers money?  Andrew Sullivan thinks that, at least when it comes to newspapers, it will not.  But I suspect that there may be a long-term and a short-term answer to the question.  I think that in the short term it probably will work.  Search engines like Google probably will lose a portion (perhaps a significant portion) of their readers while newspapers probably will pick up paying readers—in the short term.  And bloggers, especially news bloggers, probably will lose some credibility with their readers.  It’s even possible that used book stores will pick up a few customers.

But in the long term, I am not sure this will make much difference.  The bloggers will adjust—and because the most successful ones give people a sense of community online—the bloggers will retain most of their viewers and, hence, most of their advertising.  And, since most bloggers are not major operations, the loss of some viewers and advertising will not force them to go out of business as it were. In the long-term, I suspect the newspapers will want a share of bloggers’ online advertising, leading the newspapers to enter into various arrangements with the successful news-bloggers.  As for books, once the used book stores start competing with Amazon, Amazon will (once again) drop its prices. 

Of course that’s just my opinion—and I have been known to be wrong.  What do you think?

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37 Comments For This Post
  1. CHAN LEE PENG Says:

    Of course, the act of pricing will reduce the readers who used to search online materials in the basis of free of charge.

  2. Trakiya Says:

    Very good article. Thanks.

  3. Inna Tysoe Says:


    You make a good point. Another possibility is that readers (and bloggers) will increasingly come to rely on newspapers’ source documents as it were–the free government agency web sites.



  4. sambhafusia Says:

    good article..tnx for sharing

  5. virtualredheart Says:

    very good content you write… :P

  6. mkd1788 Says:

    useful information i got today..

  7. Melody SJAL Says:

    Oh, it’s the first time I heard about it, I don’t know what to say yet.

  8. drelayaraja Says:

    nice thought put in good words.

  9. Louie Jerome Says:

    Interesting article. The problem is partially solved for many bloggers if they listen to radio, TV and read the newspapers. The big problem I see for content producers, like Trionders, is that there will be even less advertising revenue to go round. Inevitably that means more work for even less pay.

  10. biantoro Says:

    interesting new article

  11. Anuradha Ramkumar Says:

    Why should I pay to surf content?

  12. sambhafusia Says:

    nice thought…tnx for sharing

  13. cutedrishti8 Says:

    I think it will not be implemented..

  14. AlmaG Says:

    I agree with Chan Lee Peng. This will lessen the readers who search for online materials.

  15. VTech Says:

    Good , thanks for sharing.

  16. Inna Tysoe Says:

    “..there will be even less advertising revenue to go round.”

    I am not sure that’s necessarily true. With the number of different products coming out all the time–and with government agencies getting into the act as it were–the advertising will probably grow. But you’re right in that if bloggers (and Trionders) can’t get around the credibility problem then that revenue may not got to places like Triond.

    And I understand the “why should I pay” sentiment. To a certain degree I share it. But at some point, the issue becomes is this information worth it to me? So to stick with the example I gave above, if for example, the only way you thought you could overcome the credibility issue is by purchasing an article and thereby earning (hopefully more) money on Triond, would you do it? Because if the answer is “yes” or even “sometimes yes” then the publishers’ gamble may pay off.



  17. Trakiya Says:

    Good article. Thanks for shraring

  18. qasimdharamsy Says:

    very nice share…

  19. clickmarbin Says:

    thanks for sharing this information .im quite afraid if this will happen.

  20. alensmith Says:

    Nice and informative thanks

  21. Jane Jane Says:

    well, this is a good post on a very timing topic.

  22. lovenluck Says:

    great post with some very useful info

  23. Midie Says:

    Great article.

  24. metro7 Says:

    Well done.v informative article & thxs for the share.

  25. standingproud Says:

    interesting point

  26. alensmith Says:

    nice one.with well written content

  27. 100polish Says:

    Great article, but scary in a way. We are all so used to free internet that it would be hard to pay it, just to make a point.

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