Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gee, here's a shock -- I want my news for free

The growing popularity of tablets (with the iPad still the undisputed leader) has news organizations itching to figure out how they can monetize their product on that technology.

Uh, oh. There's a problem, as the Associated Press reports.
Although tablet owners spend more time consuming news than poking around on Facebook, they’re reluctant to pay for news content.
That’s according to a study from the Pew Research Center’s Project for the Excellence in Journalism, released Tuesday. It found that 11 per cent of American adults own a tablet of some kind, and a majority of them spend 90 minutes a day using the device.
Consuming news is one of the most popular activities, up there with e-mail and more popular than social networking. Only general Web-browsing proved more popular on tablets than news and e-mail.
Even so, just 14 per cent of tablet users said they have paid for news content on their tablets. Another 23 per cent, though, pay for a print subscription that includes tablet content. So in all, about a third of tablet users have paid to access news on their gadgets.
Examining the issue more closely, PCWorld's Tony Bradley says the media agencies are to blame.
Tablets represent a growing segment, but they are just one facet of the larger issue of delivering news and generating revenue with digital journalism. The combination of mobile devices--smartphones and tablets--and social networks like Facebook and Twitter have completely altered the way people get, consume, and share information, and traditional print media needs to adapt or get left behind.
I don't agree that users are unwilling to pay for news. I think users are unwilling to pay to receive a print publication they don't want just for the privilege of accessing the same information digitally. I also think users expect the digital news to take advantage of the capabilities of devices like tablets and not simply copy and paste the print news into an app.
There are traditional print resources, like Time, that have awesome apps that embrace the unique features of the iPad. The articles are more engaging and interactive, and link to additional content that can expand my understanding of the topic.
It is a step in the right direction, and the apps are definitely worth paying for. They just need to find a way to deliver the app content at a reasonable cost that doesn't include forcing users to also subscribe to the print edition.

The Financial Times suggests the aforementioned Pew study might not mean doom and gloom for news organizations.

The mind set that an individual brings to his or her tablet use appears critical here. If you think of yourself as someone who gets news and information for free, then the thought of paying in general or being forced to do so through an app specifically is going to lead to frustration. For news organizations, more and more people see themselves as just that -- information seekers and finders who do so with no financial commitment.

Unless and until that attitude can be adjusted, the media are going to struggle. And consumers are going to rebel.

No comments: