Al Tompkins at PoynterOnline today weighed in on the ongoing discussion of the future business model for the newspaper industry.
In addition to the comments of New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller and Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who we’ve quoted in this space earlier, Tompkins finds a Q&A with A.H. Belo Executive Vice President Jim Moroney III. Belo owns The Dallas Morning News and a couple of other newspapers.
In an interview with Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer, after conceding the company gave out executive bonuses while laying off 500 employees, Moroney addresses the burning question of whether newspapers should charge for content online.
“Two years ago, I would have told you that asking people to pay for content on the Web is a ridiculous notion,” Moroney is quoted as saying. “Today, I will tell you it’s almost imperative we experiment with it to see what the consumer will respond to. We know the consumer is paying for newspapers on Kindle (A handheld device smaller than a laptop but bigger than a cell phone). So there’s that example. Maybe it’s something like $5.95 a month. But somebody’s willing to pay for it for some reason. That’s a discussion I would bet most newspapers, including this one, are having in a way where, two years ago, they didn’t.
“For us, I wouldn’t have thought we’d be having the discussion. I was convinced it wasn’t possible. I am not so certain about that any longer, and some experimentation will happen. The consumer will tell us if it’s a bad idea. We can try anything we want, but, ultimately, the consumer will tell us if it’s a good idea or not, and if we find out not enough make it worth doing, then, obviously, whatever experiment we’re doing is not a path to go down.”
In an Online Journalism Review on this topic, professor Paul J. MacArthur who teaches journalism at Utica College is quoted as saying:
"Giving away information for free on the Internet while still charging 50 cents to $1 for the print version of the paper was one of the most fundamentally flawed business decisions of the past 25 years. Newspapers told their paying customers that the information truly had no value. They told their paying customers that they were suckers. Why would anyone pay 50 cents for something he or she can get for free? This poorly conceived and obviously flawed strategy has helped put the newspaper industry into its current financial condition and hastened the demise of many publications."
Once you’ve established a price, is that what customers are willing to pay?