Thursday, 4 June 2009

Victor Keegan: 'People will pay for content if it is accessible and affordable'

Victor Keegan in TechnologyGuardian today writes: "Newspapers have a glorious past, but do they have a future? We may soon know, as leading lights in the industry meet to work out ways of charging readers for online news that hitherto has been free. "
He adds: "The tectonic plates are moving. Rupert Murdoch has already said that free online is "going to stop". The nightmare is that if some papers do it but not the rest then there could be a mass migration to the free ones. Last week, top US newspaper executives met to discuss this, with an antitrust counsel present, so that any concerted action doesn't fall foul of competition rules.
Keegan says: "The recent lesson of music is: people will pay for content if it is accessible and affordable, even if there are free alternatives."
On mobile reading devices, he says: "No one knows whether the reading device of choice will be largeish, such as a Kindle, or Plastic Logic's E-reader that could remove the need for carrying business documents, or a mobile phone. My guess is that a pocketable device, larger than the current iPhone, with a screen readable in daylight, will be the winner because it can be taken everywhere. But it must be customised for the reader in a way that hasn't happened yet.
He also warns: "Nor should we write off printed newspapers. There is scope for revival by, for instance, targeting older, less web-savvy readers and watching for innovations, such as phones that can read barcodes in newspapers and take you direct to a website. The real point is that innovation is still happening at such a breathtaking speed that nothing should be ruled out for the future."
Footnote:PaidContent:UK, which is owned by the Guardian Media Group, is reporting that TechnologyGuardian may be killed off in print form and go online only or be merged with MediaGuardian. It quotes a Guardian News & Media spokesman: “We are reviewing our technology offering to readers and one idea is that we might merge the printed section with Media on a Monday; this is still under consideration. We are, however, committed to expanding our technology coverage online to better meet the needs of the technology audience.”
Via Martin Stabe.

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