Why pay for old content?

When will newspapers learn that charging for old content online is costing them money?

I was trying to dig up some information today on a recent news event here in Næstved (Denmark). Google didn’t help much, even when doing advanced searches within sites that should have had the information I was looking for.

I did eventually find the article I was looking for in the news section of Sjællandske.dk (Sjællandske Medier – a Danish media group) and clicked on the link to it.

Sjællandske Medier publish a number of newspapers. Some of these must be purchased daily, however the article in question was published in a newspaper that I receive weekly for FREE.

Instead of getting the article (which is nearly 8 months old) I was confronted with a page telling me that in order to read the whole article I would have to pay 236 DKK (42.25 USD) for a 3 month or 399 DKK (71.42 USD) for a 6 month subscription.

71 dollars for a 6 month subscription to old news that I already receive for free! It’s crazy! It’s also potentially losing them a lot of money.

The subscription model for online newspapers needs to be reversed. They need to make their archives freely available (ad supported if necessary ,such as Google Adsense) and charge only for the news published within the past 24 hours.

Newspapers need to realize that people purchase them (and their online version for only a small few reasons)

  1. The news is current, up to date.
  2. The source is trusted.
  3. They like the editorial content. This is the most important reason and why paying customers choose one newspaper over another.

Online newspapers lose out because there are multiple online, free and trusted sources for the news. The only thing that can set them apart is their editorial content. But when it comes to editorial content, the only really valuable content is that of the past 24 hours. That’s what the readers want, because they desire their news content to be current.

What is the benefit of locking the old content away? As I see it, there isn’t one.

Locking the old content away reduces the value of search engine traffic. The search engines cannot access the content, therefore there are less potential searches that will result in a click thru to the publishers site. Less click thru’s means less page views. Less page views means less revenue generated from advertising on the site especially those on a “Pay Per View” model.

Searches that do result in a click thru are less likely to retain readers. They think they’ve found what they’re looking for and are confronted with a “Pay to Read” message. These readers will quickly click back to Google (or their search engine of choice) and get the information the require elsewhere. One thing they’re not likely to do is hang around the publishers site or click on an adverts. That’s a nightmare if you employ “Pay Per Click” advertising.

Most importantly, requiring potential readers to pay to view the archives makes it incredibly hard to generate customers or generate reader loyalty. Nobody is going to pay to read just 1 article.

People who don’t read your articles will never see the value in them when compared to other free sources. They have no opportunity to experience the quality of the editorial, and simple curiosity is not likely to get many customers to part with $71.42 USD.

The most valuable content is clearly the current (past 24 hours worth) of news. The value in the content is mostly attributable to the editorial as the news can be read elsewhere for free. You need to make current news as valuable as possible. In order to do that you need to give a sample, and the sample is the archives.

Most other industries give potential customers samples. You can test drive a car. There’s a tester bottle of perfume in the beauty store. Food and drink manufactures often have people with stands in stores giving away free samples.

One of three things happens when you give away a free sample:

  1. The customer doesn’t like the sample and doesn’t buy the product.
  2. The customer likes the sample and doesn’t buy the product. This is not a lose. This customer may buy at a later date because of their experience with the sample, and may refer others as well.
  3. The customer likes the sample and buys the product.

By using archives as the sample, newspapers make the current content valuable and can have more opportunities to have the customer react as is numbers 2 an 3 above.

Yes, they will also have a large number of reaction 1’s. However, this is preferable to driving away all the potential 2 and 3’s because they couldn’t see the archived content in the first place.

2 thoughts on “Why pay for old content?”

  1. Why charge for old content? Because it obviously has value.
    “the article in question was published in a newspaper that I receive weekly for FREE.”
    Then why didn’t you simply go to your old newspaper that you received for FREE and retrieve the article you were looking for? Duh – because it was easier to look for it online… but it didn’t get there for free.

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  2. Hi tp!

    I think you’re missing the point here. First off, how many people do you know that keep newspapers from 10 months ago, or longer just hanging around the house.

    Second, this is about making money, and doing so by generating reader loyalty. If people can’t read the past articles they have no incentive to want and pay for the new ones.

    To put it another way, what incentive would you have to read my blog or comment on this article if my archives were closed until you paid for them.

    These posts didn’t get here for free either.

    And you are right that old posts obviously have value. I said that myself in the post. However the newspapers want to make as much money as possible. They stand to make more money by enticing readers in with the old content and charging for the new, than they do by charging for all the content. Not many people will pay for old news that they can get elsewhere, but they will pay for good editorial content and current news.

    Say you have two sources for the same news and both are reliable and current. One is free and the other is only available by subscription. How do you choose between them? The only real way to differentiate is via the quality of the editorial.

    If you can’t compare the editorial because the archives are closed then you’ll just take the free one. Why would you pay for it. Ultimately the subscription service will make less money than just charging for the new content.

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