Monday, May 18, 2009

more on micropayments

Will micropayments save journalism? Blogging on Techcrunch, Robin Wauters votes no.

From the post:

Publishers are in a nightmarish situation, and in large part they have themselves to blame for that. Fine with me if they want to escape from that situation by retreating behind paywalls - in fact, I encourage them to do so and die there soon so we can kiss that idea goodbye once and for all. How are paywalls bad news for news addicts? Those addicts have been spoiled to death the past few years, to the point where information overload has taken over and made the consumption of news overly tedious. I know because I’ve been one of them ever since I’ve been able to read, and this was long before I discovered the Internet. Introduce paywalls, ease the choice for news addicts, see what happens.

Information is now a commodity, so deal with it. And yes, it should be free to end users. But how will that pay for the food and housing of the people working in the publishing industry, you ask? I say it’s not our problem, and tough luck. In no way does the realization that the model doesn’t work anymore mean that the masses, lawyers, the government or any other institution should be bailing out newspapers for screwing up their chance to figure out this Internet thing in time and adapting to it. Publishers need a profit, like any other business, but that doesn’t mean they all deserve to turn one, and certainly not at the expense of better, more innovative publishing businesses that are waiting around the corner.

Most plans I've seen are pretty complicated, and don't seem to take human behavior into account. Going online to act as your own editor is time-consuming enough for news junkies. But at least you don't pay for the privilege. Factor in the whole idea of choice when you pay to play, however: do I want to pay for this piece from the Times or that one from the Post. Or maybe both. (And you know how quick little texts add up. We have a friend whose kids' cell phone bill arrived in a box. Text messages.)

Now consider the non-addicted, who generally spend no more than 20 minutes a day reading the news. Not sure how that added layer would play out. Probably not well.

If you're interested, go here to read what a few smart guys have to say about the whole concept, both pro and con. bk

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