Feb 5, 2009

How Much Would You Pay...

...to read this Time article by Walter Isaacson about how an iTunes-like "micropayment" system might save newspapers as we know them? Actually, in all seriousness, it's a pretty fresh perspective from a publishing veteran, who's able to provide a dose of fascinating backstory without getting all Andy Rooney about it:
One of history's ironies is that hypertext — an embedded Web link that refers you to another page or site — had been invented by Ted Nelson in the early 1960s with the goal of enabling micropayments for content.

Two data points stood out as potentially hopeful for me:
Thus we have a world in which phone companies have accustomed kids to paying up to 20 cents when they send a text message but it seems technologically and psychologically impossible to get people to pay 10 cents for a magazine, newspaper or newscast.

Interesting. And this, which resonates with me, as a conflicted music maker/consumer:
In addition, our two most creative digital innovators have shown that a pay-per-drink model can work when it's made easy enough: Steve Jobs got music consumers (of all people) comfortable with the concept of paying 99 cents for a tune instead of Napsterizing an entire industry, and Jeff Bezos with his Kindle showed that consumers would buy electronic versions of books, magazines and newspapers if purchases could be done simply.

It's not a panacea, and I do take Kay Steiger's salient point about the misplaced contempt for ad-supported models, but this seems like a good way forward for the journalism we've taken for granted for so long.

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