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Squeezing the genie back into the bottle

The Baron is free and intends to remain so, but would you pay for it?

Thought not.

Some visitors to this website have generously made donations towards the cost of maintaining it. This is entirely discretionary and there is no intention to charge for access. The Baron will remain dependent on the goodwill of its visitors for voluntary donations.

In fact, only five per cent of web users would pay for online news, according to a UK survey.

Rupert Murdoch (a former Reuters director) has served notice that his online properties will charge for access. Maybe he should think again, says The Guardian. Research commissioned from Harris Interactive shows that most readers would run a mile.

Those that now opt to charge for stories will have a hard time squeezing back in to the bottle a genie that has been out for all this time

"If their favourite news site begins charging for access to content, three quarters of people would simply switch to an alternative free news source, people who read a free news site at least once a month told us.”

  • Just five per cent of those readers would choose to pay to continue reading the site.
  • Eight per cent would continue reading the site's free headlines only.
  • Twelve per cent of respondents are not sure what they would do.

The findings will serve as a warning to publishers considering a paid content strategy, The Guardian says.

Bitten by the low prices of online ads and the recent slowdown in advertising generally, Murdoch's News Corp is not alone in re-examining the financial viability of online news provision. Other publishers, including many in the United States, are considering models including charging for content, readers' clubs with value-added extras, selling physical merchandise and memorabilia and even reader donations.

Newspapers and other news suppliers brought this predicament upon themselves. Although they have continually increased their print cover prices over recent years, newspapers chose to let web news go free when the internet took off more than a decade ago. Now we are all hooked on free news from multiple sources and the permanently connected, constantly online internet generation thinks that paying for what has been disseminated gratis is absurd.

“Those that now opt to charge for stories will have a hard time squeezing back in to the bottle a genie that has been out for all this time,” The Guardian says.

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