According to the LA Times, News Corp. - one of the world's largest media conglomerates - is meeting with some major publishers about forming a consortium to start charging users for online content and content made available via mobile devices.
News Corp. has seen great success charging for online content with the Wall Street Journal, claiming more than one million paid online subscribers. As print readership (and revenues) continue to decline, charging for online content is a logical step. Among massive loss of advertising revenue, there is another big reason for charging for online news - Google. The Associated Press is getting more vocal about Google and others profiting from the distribution of major media sites' content. Or, as Wall Street Journal Editor Robert Thompson puts it, Google and other news aggregators are "parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the Internet."
What will be most important to the success of paid online content is a united front, according to Alan D. Mutter, a former columnist. ""The reality is that unless a lot of people who produce news act in unison to start charging for content, then individually they will fail." That is, if one major source is free, why pay for another site?
It will also be important to make sure any paid content is information critical to interested parties. The Wall Street Journal, for example, has a large readership that relies on the paper for business decisions and market news.
Should this solution come to fruition, it will have some big implications on smaller media sites and bloggers. For those unwilling to pay for online content, it could be mean they turn to bloggers for free information. Or, if paid content becomes a norm, bloggers might just find a new revenue stream charging for their own content at a lower rate.
For those who spend countless valuable hours researching and blogging only to see their content siphoned by others, paid online content, or at least forced membership has its benefits. And as online advertising becomes more sophisticated, the more you can tell a potential advertiser about your audience, the better.
Also read: Transparency is So 2008.