Would you pay for news?

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Some former staffers from the Rocky Mountain News think you might.

The Associated Press is reporting that these staffers are getting together to launch a new site for news: InDenverTimes.com.

Now – I wanna say right off the bat that I think this is great and I wish them well.  The closing of an institution like the Rocky Mountain News is very sad and I was sorry to see it go and to hear about the folks who found themselves out of work.  I have my own thoughts about why newspapers in general are closing their doors and their lack of love for the Internet is high on that list.  That these folks are trying to build something online to, well – not replace the Rocky Mountain News, but to give an alternative source for news in the area – I think that is fantastic.  More power to them.

Having said that, I think their approach is all wrong, just like most newspaper attitudes towards the web is wrong (they want to clamp down on information from the ‘free press’).  These folks want people to subscribe for $5 a month.  There are a couple things wrong with this model:

First off, the generation who is used to waking up in the morning, sitting at the table sipping their coffee and nibbling at breakfast while they read the paper – they are not going to pay $5 a month for an online paper.  I’m sorry, they just aren’t going to do it.  They want that physical paper in their hands because that’s what they are used to having and they don’t want to change.  They don’t want to stare at a computer screen or at their phone – they want that tactile sensation of holding the paper between their fingers, the smell of the newsprint on their hands, it’s what they know.

Second, the people who would welcome a local online news source aren’t gonna wanna pay for it – like me (and many of you), they get tons and tons of news on the net already and get it for free through Google news and RSS feeds and a whole myriad of other sources, so why would we pay for this service?

Lastly, look at what is successful on the web and what isn’t.  Why not create an ad supported free site and then offer a ‘premium’ edition in six months with a nominal subscription fee?  Get people interested in the site, get them using it and then later on, don’t clamp down on things and say, “oh – you have to pay to see what we’ve been giving you for free…”  NO!  Keep the ad supported version and then launch the premium area with less ads (but with better positioning within the articles or something).  Add content that no one else has and that isn’t syndicated for your premium area – make it worthwhile to invest that $5.

Fear of change and the desire to hold onto the way things used to be is what’s killing newspapers across the country.  It’s atrophy.  Be different.  Change and show the rest of your industry how it can be done.

~P