The Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO) apparently wants to follow the New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT), The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times into the business of charging for its content. The Post may find that it has a product that is not valuable enough for the reader to make the enterprise profitable, particularly if it charges one fee for access to the entire newspaper, and perhaps additional special content available only online. The solution to the dilemma might be that the Post charges a modest fee for some of its sections — those which the reader wants most — and leaves aside the model of a single, relatively high fee for the entire online product.
For the first four weeks of service, The New York Times charges a relatively high $99 for access to all of its digital products. The Journal charges the same amount for a single subscription to its WSJ Weekend product. Each has a many other options, none of which are cheap.
Most of the Post’s coverage of tech, national news and world news are available in similar form at other sites on the Internet. The Post’s vast coverage of national politics and its coverage of local sports, local news, lifestyle and entertainment are not. The Post may not be able to charge $49 a month as the Financial Times does for access to FT.com. But it may be able to charge less for access to some of its sections — those that have content that is not easily available elsewhere, if it is available at all.
The current pay wall model for the newspaper industry is based on one fee for an entire product. The drawback of the model is that few people read an entire newspaper. Most people have an interest in several sections, or only one. The reader may well be willing to pay for those, even if he is not willing to pay for every word across every subject on which reporters have written. The solution is to get money for content that the consumer feels he cannot do without.
Douglas A. McIntyre
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