About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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April 14, 2009


Jason Fry

Hi Mark,

I'm not as skeptical as you are about either the overall prospects for getting people to pay or the idea that there will necessarily be a race to the bottom (or at least to below the subscription wall) if there isn't 100% buy-in. But that's a philosophical debate that's been had many times before, so no point rehashing it.

I'd also be reluctant to bet against Gordon Crovitz -- he's a smart guy, and the WSJ.com content strategy he spearheaded is a lot more nuanced than how it's generally portrayed.

What gives me pause -- a lot more pause -- is that I don't think many newspapers could charge for their current online products no matter how good the payment tools available are. They're still print papers dumped into online form, without much in the way of reader engagement or community. That needs to be fixed before any of those papers can even have a larger debate about charging.

Neill Watson

Superb piece of writing. Only just found this site, but your thinking is dead-on inline with my views.

It's going to be really interesting as this whole sea change moves over to my own genre of monthly lifestyle and motoring magazines. It's definately in it's way. I used to have a hard hat and body armour. Now I'm looking forward to the oportunity...

Many thanks, and definately one for the blogroll!

John Ros

It depends on what kind of news the sites offer and if they can get some other stuff for subsribers (like being able to comment on news stories as a paid subsriber)

There are a few paid "news" sites out there already, for example inman.com (a very large if not the biggest real estate new sites for real estate agents (mostly)) has a paid subsribtion. You can still get some of the news for free (and all the titles of paid ones) But they've been moving more and more content towards the paid side.

The question is will it work for the general news papers when there seems to be plenty of online sources to get the same news.

If the newspapers could actually agree amongst themselves (or if it'sa niche market and is almost fully covered by just one news source) then paid subscriptions could work.

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