Last week editor South Wales Argus editor Kevin Ward asked website readers: "How much would you pay for news?". The answer, it would appear, is not much.
The blog post received 12 comments – none of which gave an indication that readers would be willing to pay for online content, though not all of them explicitly stated they wouldn’t.
Ward said in the blog:
There is no doubt in my mind that the current business model for newspapers, like the Argus, that allow free access to the bulk of their editorial content online is unsustainable in the long term.
How can we continue to charge readers for a printed copy of our newspaper but allow them to read much of its content for free online?…
Some will say that if newspapers charge for access to their websites, readers will go elsewhere for their news. But is that really the case?
I would suggest that argument applies to many national newspapers but not to local and regional ones.
Who else produces local news about the area covered by the Argus? Who else produces what the Swansea Evening Post does, or the Wrexham Evening Leader?
At some point in the not-too-distant future I believe all newspapers will charge for access to their websites.
The acid test then will be how many people who currently read the Argus site, for instance, would be willing to pay to continue doing so.
What do you think? Would you pay to read the news online? And if not, why not
One commenter, 'Owain Vaughan', said: “If people were asked to pay for on-line content then the Argus’ on-line readership would plummet even faster than the dead-tree readership has. As soon as you start charging for content, a great many people will look elsewhere.”
'Robodad' added: “I wouldnt pay for on line news, i would go elsewhere to find what i wanted. The Telegraph recently flagged up that i had read my quota of 20 free articles so i removed their site from my favorites and replaced it with the independent. Simple.”
Commenter 'pwharley' said: “Rather than try to maintain the unsustainable, why not change your business model so that revenue is obtained from advertisers, rather than readers?”
And 'UpsetResident' said: “[Y]ou have to remember that people use your site for convenience, hinder that at all and you will lose viewership and any opportunity to make money from that person.
“I will add that i have seen a decline in the standard of news on the site, there have been some dreadfully poor taste articles and a number of time-wasting stub articles that have had me searching other avenues to learn more.
“If the Argus started requiring payment, i'd stop visiting.”