Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Reluctance to pay for readable news

I’m thrilled The Daily Oklahoman, our largest newspaper in Oklahoma, created an iPad application earlier this fall. I used it several times during my free trial period, and really liked it. Now, however, I can’t access any current news on it unless I pay $10 per month. Even if our family paid to subscribe to the print edition of the paper, I’d still have to pay $5 per month for digital access.

With the wealth of alternative, free news sources available on the web today, I’m not willing to pay for my news, however. I’d use a free NewsOK app with advertising, but I won’t pay a subscription fee for a single newspaper when I can read hundreds of others for free online. These are the news and RSS aggregator apps I am currently using on my iPad:

The New York Times is going to start charging in January for access to news via its iPad app. I don’t think I’ll pay for that either. The old, traditional model of having consumers pay for standard news is dead, at least from my perspective.

Are you willing to still pay for news you read? Why or why not?

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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5 responses to “Reluctance to pay for readable news”

  1. Laura Woodward Avatar
    Laura Woodward

    I agree with the consumer not opting to buy cows when milk is free, but here’s an innovative query – how would you suggest that investigators (reporters, editors and such) make a profit? Hardcopy newspapers and magazines are becoming relics of a pre-internet era, but society in general benefits from the information that these professions generate and make available… doesn’t it? In a truly digitalized era, how do you see this service being provided if not on a for-profit basis?

  2. Suzanne Hamilton Avatar
    Suzanne Hamilton

    I agree with the above comment. What will happen to news when no one is willing to pay for the work involved with good reporting? I don’t see individual bloggers and commentators with narrow agendas ever taking the place of news organizations whose stated purpose is to provide accurate and insightful reporting? I know that many mainstream news organizations miss the mark on this goal, but the alternatives seem pretty bleak to me.

  3. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    I don’t think all the money is going to dry up for all news organizations, but money is certainly going to flow in different ways and in different directions. I’m not averse to paying for media of all kinds, but I’m far less likely today to want to pay a monthly fee for digital news which just comes from a single source. Like a Flickr Pro account, I might pay $20 per year for access to NewsOK on the iPad, but I’m definitely not going to pay $10 per month. I’m not sure what the right “price fit” will be. Hopefully they’ll make some adjustments.

    Make no mistake, mainstream media IS in crisis. I think as consumers of media as well as citizens, we’ll ultimately be better served by access to a more diverse set of voices as well as perspectives. Certainly the “echo chamber” issue will remain, but we have that now with people who watch Fox News all day or listen to Rush all day. I think (and hope) we’ll see news organizations become more effective and powerful media filters. As Clay Shirky discusses, when we experience TMI (too much information) today it’s often because of “filter failure.” The quantity of information is going to continue increasing. Individuals as well as organizations can serve as curators and filters for it, for free and in some cases for a fee. Thanks to Richard MacManus’s Dec 6th article for RRW, I learned about the new iOS app for my6sense. Tools like this which use AI can and will increasingly help with this filter issue.

    Would a future of news completely reported and filtered by citizen journalists be bleak or rich? I’m not sure it’s going to be entirely one or the other (traditional media sources versus citizen journalists.) We’re going to have both, with a larger dose of citizens and a smaller dose of traditionalists. At least that’s what I see in my crystal ball.

  4. Tim P. Avatar
    Tim P.

    We need professional journalists. If we support in wholesale fashion the structures that de-professionalize these important professions (journalists, teachers, writers, etc.), we get what we pay for–or don’t pay for.

    We move forward inexorably toward a progressive, fragmented mediascape, but I don’t think it will necessarily benefit critical readership in the short term or democracy in the longer term.

  5. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    I agree we need professional journalists. I don’t think the traditional revenue models (selling lots of paper-based newspapers) are working as well today, or will function well in the future. New models are needed, and that’s what progressive news organizations like NewsOK are pursuing I think.

    In terms of “critical readership,” I’d argue our current mediascape is replete with examples of how citizens/consumers are infrequently critical thinkers. The failure of SQ744 here in Oklahoma is a recent example. There were lots of “fear mongering” ads in the latest round of elections that probably also demonstrated the capacity to use mainstream media to manipulate public perceptions much more than they showed a critically thinking electorate. I think our need to be critical thinkers as citizens, learners, and consumers is more “in our face” today with WikiPedia, social media, citizen journalism, etc. We need to continue to raise awareness about the importance of media literacy, and help others (as well as ourselves) develop media literacy in multiple venues.

    In terms of benefiting democracy, I’d argue a cornerstone of democracy is free expression. To the extent social media tools permit individuals in a society to have greater access to the tools of publication I see that as a big plus. More voices mean more expression, equal more exercise of democratic freedoms.