Guardian Media Group CEO: 'Paid Content May Work'

author/source: Evan Rudowski

Guardian Media Group CEO Carolyn McCall Says 'Paid Content May Work'

Opinion - by SubHub Co-Founder, Evan Rudowski

Guardian Media Group CEO Carolyn McCall says paid content may work, in a report published this week in the Financial Times.

McCall echoes Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger's recent proclamations that a broad paywall can never work at the Guardian -- but adds that they have considered charging for certain high-value, niche content.

No one who understands newspapers well would argue that a solid paywall around all of a newspaper's content would make sense. Much news content is commoditized -- alternatives are available elsewhere for free, and therefore it’s difficult for one provider to charge for it.

But there's plenty of evidence that people will pay for content that is unique, high quality, timely, actionable and valuable to a given niche or special interest. Certainly a newspaper like the Guardian, with its solid editorial staff, is capable of creating such content.

The worry is that with financial losses so great at the Guardian and elsewhere, staff cutbacks may gradually render newspapers less and less capable of creating the kinds of content that people will pay for. Their challenge is to innovate before slashing and burning.

Of course, if great journalists do get cut, we can count on many of them taking advantage of the opportunity to finally go out and start the kinds of online content endeavors that will leverage their talents effectively and make money in the process. They'll be able to do this without the costly overhead -- trucks and printing presses -- carried by a typical newspaper.

So newspapers need to get on with it. They can argue against paywalls all they want, but they ought to start figuring out where paid content can work for them so that they can add this to their arsenal of revenue-generating tools. Exploring and developing new revenue streams is the only way newspapers will have a hope of ultimately reversing losses and generating profits.