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Consumer Trends That Destroyed Media’s Business Model (mondaynote.com)
58 points by djug 72 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments

> Like many, I was wrong about the subscription model for the news media. I thought that a possible scheme for subscriptions could be: one for national media, in the $12–20 a month range, another, less expensive ($5–$9/month) for local news, and the last one for specialized content, whether it is a business or a leisure publication.

I can't imagine how that could ever have worked. Back in the day, I mostly read stuff linked by news.google.com or in various mail lists. Now it's mainly from HN. But either way, I'd need perhaps 20-40 subscriptions. Which would be unworkable.

We really need a system that pays realistic prices (maybe $0.10 or so) per article read. Whatever you'd get by dividing cost per "issue" by number of articles available to read.

I don't want to pay for all of the articles I read, a large number of them are terrible and shouldn't be encouraged.

I don’t want to pay for all the meals I eat, a large number of them are terrible... So I don’t go back. But you have to pay for what you eat.

I doesn't physically cost any practical amount of money to read an article, a tiny amount of processing power and data transfer. A physical meal costs orders of magnitude more.

I understand why we should pay for articles but if you enforce payment then you'll see a flood of poorly written click bait and a race to the bottom.

Im not suggesting that it will work (to pay per article as we’re describing). But the idea that you should get something for free because you don’t like it isn’t how most things work. Caveat emptor.

Conversely, people said it didn’t cost any practical amount of money to listen to music, yet Spotify thrives.

FWIW, "I didn't like it" returns culture has been growing in the US for a while. If you've ever run an Amazon seller account, you'll have gotten plenty of returns from customers for no reason other than that they didn't like the thing they bought or it "didn't meet expectations". The Costco returns line is also packed with people doing this. Point is, the mindset of not paying for something because you didn't like it is quickly making its way into the physical goods world as well, so it's not as simple as shooting down this digital goods mindset entirely.

Spotify thrives because it is more convenient than piracy.

And what is more convenient than an ad blocker?

What about payment with a refund option? Obviously this could be abused (and likely would be), but I'd think most people would only use the refund option if the article was truly terrible / clickbait.

Or a variant, give a reader the option to deny paying the media outlet within some time window, but the reader doesn't get any of the money back.

This does mean the payment processor and the outlet have to be independent entities. That, though, nicely opens up another possibility of what to do with that money that is denied: distribute it proportionally to all other articles from all other media outlets. Proportionate to what is also a question, but I suspect proportionate to non-denied payment from the processor makes the most sense.

A lot of articles don't nourish me, they make me stupider. I wouldn't pay for a poisoned meal.

To continue this analogy. When I go to a restaurant and order a steak I don't get told by the waiter that I should really be eating vegan gluten free instead.

What really bothers me the most about modern "news" is that a lot of it is really just biased political commentary and editorials masquerading as news.

Or just as insidious, thinly veiled advertisements.

Biased political commentary's better than armchair political campaign strategy commentary and horserace-style campaign coverage. At least that's about something that might matter. Looking at you, NPR.

It's no secret that many news articles these days are simply paid advertisements. Generally, I avoid the Big N mainstream "news providers" and stick to some combo of HN, twitter and reddit just to name a few.

> What really bothers me the most about modern "news"

Wait until you learn about the origin of the term "yellow journalism".

I know of no restaurants that would charge you if you got food poisoning. But saying that when you ordered a colossal burger it went straight to your waistline isn't a good excuse not to pay. Don't go in if you don't want to pay.

Beginning to be off-topic, but I'm curious...

The problem is, the food poisoning usually manifests after you've already paid and left the resturant.

Could one do a credit card charge-back if they get sick after eating out? (Too bad I pay using cash though, so I am SOL.)

So having them behind a penny wall would work out fine?

Na, I go in and buy a cooked fish then split it among thousands like a digital Jesus.

Oh. I did read your comment before posting mine, and laughed. But just now I see that you suggested the same approach. How embarrassing.

With the monthly digital subscription model, you end up paying for all you could possibly ever eat. Most of which you could never eat.

Unless you automated the "eating", and resold what you didn't need. Which is disgusting, and in the case of online media, almost certainly illegal.

But that is an interesting idea. Buy digital subscriptions to every media outlet that you'd ever want to read, and resell page views, using some sort of proxy setup. And yeah, illegal as hell.

What you were suggesting in the parent comment was a pay-as-you-go system wherein you pay something like $0.10 per article.


I was just riffing on how to deal with pervasive paywalls that required full subscriptions.

What if the system paid for articles read automatically, but there was a button you could use to negate the fee? So if you click something and it turns out to be clickbait or some other trash you can retroactively revoke the payment. Make the process just painful enough (maybe a CAPCHA) to discourage abuse and it might work. Most people are honest and if the fees are reasonable they won't go to the effort to revoke them every time. The few that do revoke every fee weren't going to pay in the first place and at least this might discourage them from setting up an underground service to duplicate your content wholesale.

On the other hand most people don't like getting nickled and dimed to death.

> Now it's mainly from HN. But either way, I'd need perhaps 20-40 subscriptions.

No, you should be paying one subscription, to HN, which should be making arrangements with the news sources. Paying for subscriptions from the sources when HN is your gateway is like readers directly subscribing to wire services when they get their news by opening up a newspaper.

The old media “portals” have been displaced and become sources consumed through other portals, but business models haven't fully adapted.

If news subscriptions ever get around to working it has to happen the way things progressed with music: siloed content people mostly don't pay for (check), widespread piracy that allows people to enjoy unfettered access (let's say the Google trick/private browsing trick counts). Next comes the switcheroo phase, when a company comes along and makes heaps of illegal money off the piracy while negotiating with the content owners in a bid for legitimacy.

The economics are too hard otherwise. The New York Times won't cede pricing control willingly and consumers won't pay subscription prices to individual producers. And middleman companies will always have two impossible battles, pricing and content coverage.

Music might just be the sweet spot, though. Spotify works great while Netflix is getting torn apart by the sharks. Video might be too expensive/lucrative to aggregate and news articles might be too cheap/pervasive to bother.

Why should HN handle media payments? It's more of a discussion forum than a news aggregator. Indeed, users submit links, so maybe they (we) ought to be making payment arrangements.

I agree with this -- whether the portal be HN or something else. I'd gladly pay a subscription to a portal and ingest the content as I see fit.

I'd be against paying $.10 per article read (or clicked) because most articles, I never fully read. HN is an exception to that rule - I find most of the content linked from HN to be beneficial and worthwhile.

I wonder why it's mobile only, since I'd love something like this in a web interface. Maybe they data mined from your device is factored into the cost?

Yeah, like that!

I'm impressed. Older services like that were asking $1 or so per article.

Edit: I do see The Wall Street Journal, which is cool. But do they include The NY Times?

I, personally, would either want to pay per article or for a single subscription service to a news organization. If given the choice between having 3 or more accounts+subscriptions (let alone 20) to juggle, and not consuming news at all, I would choose the latter, and I suspect that many Americans would, too.

For the record, Blendle[1] tried the pay-per-article model a few years ago, and was unsuccessful. Not sure if they executed it poorly or the model itself is unsustainable, though.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blendle

If i am going to pay to read an article, then there better be no tracking cookies, no sharing with 3rd parties and no ads on the page of the article i am reading. If not i might as well read the same content on another site.

Presumably you're running an adblocker - so what does it matter?

I highly doubt my adblocker is 100% effective. There's also the common decency of being respectful to your customer. Why should I support a company who treats me like a resource to be extracted?

People pay for 5 different streaming services

Eh, I think most of this is only true because the internet has basically destroyed the barrier to entry for posting/sharing news and content. Why should people pay for news/subscriptions to news if there are thousands of news sites/publications out there offering the same information for free?

Plus unlike the forms of entertainment sold on services like Spotify or Netflix, news is basically a commodity. For many people, the source of the news isn't some unique selling point that makes them want to pay for it.

So even if their 'favourite' news source does become paid, they'll just go somewhere else and get the same information. Especially given that anyone can basically just copy the giist of a news story and rewrite it in their own words, and most of the media does exactly that. Even if some news site publishes a 'unique' story, it'll be on their competitors sites in one form or another in five minutes flat.

Contrasts this to other forms of media/entertainment people suggest aggregators/services for. Your favourite music artist, video game, TV show, etc can't be 'replaced' by a generic alternative. If you like Star Wars or Marvel or what not, you're gonna have to go through Disney in some way.

There's no generic brand Star Wars or Avengers that's 'good enough' for many people.

Have trends changed? Sure, but they've changed because tech and competition have enabled them to.

> Netflix eats online news

If Netflix is eating online news both in terms of attention and money then why wouldn't they partner with Netflix? I know a few seniors that are reluctant to switch because it doesn't have news or weather.

Honestly having a daily news show on netflix seems like such a no-brainer that I can't fathom why it isn't on there yet. You'll get a whole load of people opening netflix at least once a day for basically.

Each story could have its own video (like news stories on a text-based news site having their own page) and viewers could just watch the ones that interest them. Or they could stream them back-to-back like a season of TV. The weather forecast could be a separate video too. On-demand news.

Those by definition have to be produced every day, and they are regional to boot. And they go stale pretty much instantly. Netflix wants to produce content that can be successful in more than one region of the world, that doesn’t expire quickly, that can be added to the catalog and watched some time into the future.

A show like that would be everything they don’t want.

It's a very difficult market. I have the feeling that journalists need support and more money to provide quality content but the current price-point of subscription is too high for the majority of people. On the other hand, free content financed by ads generally does not deliver on quality. Business models for online media are still immature, I hope they will find the right formula.

Maybe if the different news medias organized to create a shared payment account, then individual articles could be easily deducted from that one bucket.

I thought I saw a company recently doing this... in the past, Discors tried this, but only offered a selection of articles across the various sources it covered: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/02/discors-adds-nyt/

Edit: Sorry, my reading comprehension is bad. This is a pay once, read all you want across multiple source things, not a bucket to deduct payments from. So what I responded with is not what you were looking for... but maybe it's interesting anyway.

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