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Information wants to be expensive

Feb - 25 - 2009
Nicole C. Engard

One of the common concerns I heard earlier this week at the NFAIS conference was costs. The digital natives want free information – but the publishers have to worry about their bottom line. Of course, being who I am, I’m all about reworking your business model to make open source, open content, and open access work! But someone pointed out this article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Information Wants to Expensive.

With newspapers in cities across the country on the brink, an old idea is being resurrected in the hope of saving them: They should charge for access to their journalism on the Internet. This is a great idea, but about 10 years late.

Time magazine published a cover story earlier this month headlined “How to Save Your Newspaper.” In it, former Time Managing Editor Walter Isaacson noted how odd it is to charge for subscriptions in print but not online. “Even an old print junkie like me has quit subscribing to the New York Times, because if it doesn’t see fit to charge me for its content, I’d feel like a fool paying for it. This is not a business model that makes sense.”

I agree – and that’s why I don’t buy newspapers or magazines anymore – but I do see the main point of the article – which is newspapers are losing money because no one is paying for content anymore. So, how do we solve it? I don’t know – I would probably pay for an online newspaper subscription if that was the only way to read the news … but how do you make it so that’s the only way?

I don’t really have answers – only more questions. I do know that I understand where publishers are coming from – but if they were to publish online only then maybe it wouldn’t cost them as much and maybe they could charge us less for content online. One audience member argued that if we have our universities paying for subscriptions to online journals then what are we complaining about – while that is the case for the speaker they were asking, it’s not the case for me. I often find that I can’t find articles I want to read online because my public library doesn’t subscribe to as many research journals as a university would.

Anyway, just wanted to point you to the article and see if anyone out there had any great insights or ideas to make both the publishers and the researchers happy.


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