Joanna Geary, Web Development Editor for The Times, came to talk about her career in the media last week. She started out at a local newspaper, built up her profile in the blogging world and is now charged with the daunting task of introducing a paid content system for The Times.
The paid content debate has been raging on for what feels like an eternity. On the one hand, you have those in the Rupert Murdoch camp. He argues that internet news should never have been a free service. People pay for newspapers, so why not online content? He is now planning to introduce a pay wall on all his news sites and to remove them from the Google search index.
On the other hand, there are those who believe paid content will never work. Why pay when free news sites and blogs are so readily available on the web? Introducing pay walls and removing your site from Google could only induce a downturn in traffic and advertising revenue.
However, few seem to have come up with a viable solution.
Joanna is now trying to implement a strategy which takes both schools of thinking into account. Yes, Rupert Murdoch is right that newspapers cannot carry on the way they are. We cannot simply dismiss the idea of paid content. But introducing strict pay walls may well drive traffic away from the site.
Despite this debate, I think Joanna has a point when she says the internet is not our only problem. Like it or not, most people don’t make time in their day to read the news. They barely have enough time to spend with family and friends and tend to consume news while doing something else. They listen to the radio while driving the car, they watch bulletins while eating their dinner, or they check news sites while at work. People are busier than ever before and the news needs to fit into their hectic schedules, not vice-versa. Instead of simply focusing on paid content, perhaps we need to also address the issue of making news a more convenient commodity.