Don't be scared to charge for online content

News publishers should put a price on their premium online content and charge users to distinguish it from the “rubbish” on the internet, according to one senior online news executive.

Rob Grimshaw, managing editor of FT.com said publishers should not be scared to charge for good content and that his site would continue its part-paid-for strategy for online news to preserve its quality.

“I don’t think media owners are making enough of a case for quality on the net,” he said. “There is a push to say everything should be free and many major publishers have caved in in the face of that, but you only have to do one Google search to see where that [content] ends up.

“If everything I see is free, a lot of it is going to be rubbish. Regardless of what is said in public if you speak to the consumers they are prepared to pay for it and often a lot for it.”

Speaking at a panel on online business models the SIIA Global Information Summit, Grimshaw, who took over the role after his predecessor Ien Cheng left to join Google, rejected the suggestion that news sites should either be paid-for or free, and not a mixture. In October last year the FT introduced a hybrid subscription model where users have to pay if they want to read more than 30 stories a month. Grimshaw said the site had a base of 500,000 registered users.

He added: “We need to find a way to do the two things together: make money from our content – it’s some of the best content you will find anywhere, you shouldn’t be afraid of putting a price on it – and we want to make money from advertising. We don’t see why you can’t do both.”

Grimshaw explained that the FT.com was increasingly acting as not just a business-to-consumer site but a B2B publisher, creating bespoke content and financial data for selected companies and groups.

Also speaking on the panel was Simon Alterman, senior vice president of strategy and business development for Dow Jones, who said all publishing income either fell into the category of selling adverts to audiences or selling access to audiences.

He also split the content creation into the “artisan” model of trained journalists writing original content and aggregation – and suggested a supplementary third way: using content to create an intelligent and useful database.

In April, after its purchase by News Corp, Dow Jones bought business social networking platform Generate which crawls 75m domains extracting information about four million companies and aggregates the data so that users can spot trends in business.

“Go out and harvest the content you find, put [it] in a structured database and create new content assets simply from extracting the juice from what [you] can find elsewhere,” he said .”It has the potential to change the cost side of the equation without affecting the revenue side.”

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