80% of Consumers Would Not Pay For Content

Publishers Can Charge for Content Without Blocking Google

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As you’ve more than likely heard by now, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch in an interview last week talked about the possibility of blocking search engines from indexing News Corp. publications’ content. While this may or may not actually happen, it is one of the latest (and biggest) examples of a publisher taking the position of search engines hurting them rather than helping them.

In an informative piece at Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan interviews Google News business product manager Josh Cohen about how Google handles paywalls. "For me, I find it puzzling publishers believe they have to make a choice," says Sullivan. "They can have their paywall AND Google traffic combined, via Google’s First Click Free program. Are there many publishers who simply aren’t aware of this program?"

"First Click Free is only one example of the ways that publishers can make subscription content available," says Cohen. "They can do previews, they can block it in different ways. I think there are a lot of those questions about the nuts and bolts of how you can work with us, subscriptions just being one of them."

Sullivan highlights the following ways in which Google handles free and paid news content. They boil down to four basic scenarios: free content, first click free, subscription, and preview. First Click Free puts content behind a paywall, but Google indexes it and makes it searchable, and users can get to it from Google and read the entire article for free, but can’t access other stories from the site without paying, unless they go back to Google and start over.  The subscription option puts the content behind a paywall, and Google indexes the whole article and makes it searchable, but people can only read the whole thing if they pay. The preview option puts the content behind a paywall, and Google does not index the entire story, but only a preview. People can then pay to read the whole thing.

There are many talking points on these options, and Sullivan does a wonderful job of going through them with Cohen. The real question, however, is whether or not it is worth it to even have a paywall. If the latest research from Forrester is any indication, offering only paid content is not the wisest decision, because 80% of consumers wouldn’t access news sites if they had to pay.

Forrester - Would You Pay for Content?

Forrester’s Sarah Rotman Epps says the data suggests two things:

1. Publishers should continue to offer free, ad-supported products to the 80% of consumers who won’t pay for content online; and

2. Publishers should offer consumers a choice of multichannel subscriptions, single-channel subscriptions, and micropayments for premium product access.

As she says, consumers want choice. "The need for a multichannel product and pricing strategy is further reinforced by the ‘what if’ scenario of print being discontinued," says Epps. "When we asked consumers, ‘If the publications you read were no longer available in print, how would you prefer to access that content?’ we found that no single channel dominated responses."

37% of US consumers said they’d prefer to access content via a web site, 14% said by mobile phone, 11% said by laptops and netbooks, and 3% said by eReaders. 10% said by PDF by email.

Related Articles:

Obvious: People Don’t Want to Pay for Online News

> Murdoch On Blocking Search Engines: "I Think We Will"

> Google Okay With Blocking News Corp.

80% of Consumers Would Not Pay For Content
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  • http://www.sitebyjames.com James

    It depends… I think I would pay do download a movie… I mean when I was 14, I didn’t mind spending 2-3 days downloading a low res version of a movie with out of sync audio… now I can stand it if it doesn’t play back real time…

    I certainly do pay radio stations in the form donations as I could never imagine my life without a steady stream of good music…

    As for News… I was never big on news… but… for the most part… I would rather have quality than a continual barrage of non-professional opinions… I mean appreciate the good work from the Associated Press… they do excellent work… but as for paying for a headline story… I don’t think so… Maybe National Geographic… New Scientist… Maybe Science and Nature… (Oh wait… alot of science journals never sold out… go figure…) Actually I do like MacCleans… I’d pay for that but it would seem their magazine is always fresher than their online content… another go figure…

    I would certainly pay for a good book… especially if it were cheaper online than in the bookstore…

    As for first click… who cares… I’m never going to buy if I can dig it out of the cache… or find the same article syndicated elsewhere… We are all plagiarists…

  • http://www.freewarebb.com Freeware

    People will simply not pay for content, they rarely do when the internet is awash with information on all subjects, from all angles, directed at all types of different people, why should they?!

  • http://deck-boards.com Deck Boards

    It seems that Google is actually providing a way around the paywall a company sets up. A better way to still get the traffic from Google and have a pay wall, is to NOT include Google into your plans. Instead just publish a paragraph or two for free, use cookies to let them have one article free, track by IP, or best yet, have some articles that are free to all, as many times as they want but have rarer content behind the paywall.

    It sounds as though with the Google program, you can just open the article in a new tab, close tab when done, and go back to your still open news.google.com article and open another link in a new tab. Perhaps you’d have to refresh it?

    Best practice? Um sell advertising and let the readers read the content for free. Just like it’s always been done. they really should stop trying to pretend this content isn’t already paid for. It’s the newspapers print divisions that are having a problem turning profit, not the web sites. On top of being profitable, anything else the would charge is just a greed thing.

  • http://www.myspace.com/musichq Darren Bunting

    surely the only way someone will pay for content is if it is in some way rare or unique or available far in advance of free services.

    Does blocking Google searches make your content rare or unique, I don’t think so personally but as mentioned by allowing a searchable index or taster/opening paragraphs may work to a small degree on some content.

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