Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Radiohead model of monetizing journalism. . .

In 2007 British alternative rock band Radiohead released their seventh album, In Rainbows, as a digital download, asking listeners to send in what they thought it was worth. I learned about this in 2009, when I ran a Civic Soapbox by JMU student Ted Ghaffarian that mentioned it.

Hmmm, I thought. Very, very interesting.

For the last decade or so, we journalists have been madly assessing the Internet's impact on our profession. Of course, what we're really madly assessing  (once we've touched on such high-minded concerns as the future of well-sourced journalism) is the impact of  the Internet on our paychecks.

Print journalists have been hit the hardest. The newest trend among newspapers appears to be layoffs. If they are to survive at all, print newspapers must figure out how to monetize themselves on the Internet.

Yesterday, I saw on NPR's website that the New York Times is going to start charging for full web access in 2111. Wow, I thought. For everyone in my line of work, this is big news. I, like most people I talk with, am leery of plans that expect people to pay for news coverage they've long enjoyed for free. The prevailing wisdom appears to be that we'll all just go elsewhere for our news coverage.

Then last night there was a fascinating discussion on The PBS News Hour during which two pundits  discussed both the back story and the ramifications of the Times' decision. At some point in this conversation, one pundit mentioned the way The Miami Herald now tags each of its news story with two separate links.

I visited the Herald's site first thing this morning and, indeed, found two links at the end of every article. The first link offered a discount on home delivery of the paper.

And here's the second one.

Wow, again!  The Radiohead monetization model applied to commercial print journalism. My initial reaction is (in the Harry Potter sense of the word) brilliant!

The question, of course, is, will people do this? Will readers pay voluntarily to keep reputably-sourced, commercially-modeled journalism in business?

At some point, I'm going to make a few calls and try to find out how the Herald's experiment is working. It might have to be after this weekend, after Carl Kasell has come and gone, but I am going to find out!

1 comment:

  1. I remember when I first started reading the Times online; I couldn't believe it was free. The big question for me is what will be considered frequent visiting and how much a subscription will be. If the first is high and the second low, I think it could be a win-win situation for the paper.

    I've never understood why most everything online can be accessed for free. Does it have something to do with the difficulty of controlling information once it's put out there in cyberspace?