It’s a Micro-payment World After All

Sorry for the sabbatical from blogging. I was wrapping up a tough spring semester, and I am just now attempting to get back into my media-monitoring habits.

Here’s a good one to start with: (See FT.com story, here.)

I’ve mentioned micro-payments before, and I just don’t think the proposed system will work. Here’s part of the problem:

Pricing for individual articles and for premium subscriptions had yet to be decided, [Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of the Journal] said, but would be ‘rightfully high.’

For me, the real appeal of online newspapers is that I can pick and choose my news from a variety of publications. I can get my financial and health news from nytimes.com, my government news from washingtonpost.com, my local news from jacksonville.com, and my sports news from miamiherald.com.

Clearly, I would not be willing to pay for online subscriptions to each of these papers (plus the many others I scan from day to day). Nor would I be willing to pay astronomical fees for individual stories scattered throughout the newspapers.

Maybe there is some alternative. John Temple, former editor, president, and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, offers this analogy:

Costco charges a membership fee before customers can take advantage of the great values it offers. Users pay it willingly once they see the benefits. I think newspapers could take a page from Costco’s book.

Temple, now a blogger at www.johntemple.net, suggests readers will pay a “membership fee” for a resource only a newspaper can offer: useful information. Temple says newspapers can be “an information company that can help people do everything from save money on groceries to pick the best school for their child to report road conditions in real time.”

People will pay for niche services. It’s true. And no blogger could ever hope to wield the networking power that a newspaper can. It’s an asset we seem to have forgotten we possess.

It will be interesting to see how this WSJ venture unfolds. I doubt it will have the same success as online newspaper ventures, such as minnpost.com, which has raised more than $10,000 via micro-payments (see article here).

The thing that makes us want to contribute to ventures like minnpost.com and indenvertimes.com (the Rocky Mountain’s Post’s endeavor to live online) is the grassroots appeal. We want to see that underdog, second-city paper rebound and grow.

But how much pity will we muster for Rupert Murdoch and his newspaper titan chronicling the happenings of Wall Street (which isn’t exactly winning over the American public right now)?

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