Why Give It To All For Free, When Hardcore Fans Will Pay?

News Corp. lost $203 million in the latest quarter due to a huge writedown at MySpace.
But that’s not going to get the old man down. Not at all. A day after that bad news hit, Rupert Murdoch is making new news by saying News Corp. is ready to start charging for online content at The New York Post, London Sun and London Times. News Corp. already charges for content at The Wall Street Journal.
According to BBC News:

Murdoch said he was “satisfied” that the company could produce “significant revenues from the sale of digital delivery of newspaper content”.
“The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive methods of distribution,” he added. “But it has not made content free. Accordingly, we intend to charge for all our news websites. I believe that if we are successful, we will be followed by other media.”
In order to stop readers from moving to the huge number of free news websites, Murdoch said News Corp would simply make its content “better and differentiate it from other people”.

Andrew Keen, writing on The Telegraph says, “The old man has balls.”
Keen also suggests that, “in the digital age of free content, the relationship between the size of audience and the size of one’s business is quite complex, perhaps even the inverse of what it once was.”
This is a topic we keep returning to, day after day. It’s a topic that frankly is in our face. Running AdPulp for almost five years now has been a hands-on education in how to create and maintain a popular site on the Web. That’s knowledge we like to share with clients and with you. But clearly we don’t have the answer, nor does anyone else. It’s like we’re all searching for a cure.
With that in mind, I’m intrigued by Keen’s “inverse of what it once was” comment. He might be right in that an exclusive online community is more functional and desirable (for members and publishers) than a high traffic Web site. It certainly fits the online community concept better. And if you think of exclusive offline communities, they needn’t be big to make money.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.