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Zachary Seward: How Alan Murray Hopes to Survive the Coming of the Internet

Zachary susses out five pillars of faith:

Five tips on charging for content from Alan Murray of » Nieman Journalism Lab:

  1. The best model is a mix of paid and free content. “It’s not pay wall/no pay wall,” Murray told me. The Journal allows free access to all of its political, arts, and opinion coverage, in addition to certain breaking news stories and all of its blogs. But the rest of the site requires a subscription.

  2. You can’t charge for exclusives that will just be repeated elsewhere. This was my favorite lesson from Murray, who explained, “If it’s a big news story, if we report a takeover and — we could hold that behind the pay wall, but if we do, BusinessWeek or someone else will simply write a story saying ‘The Wall Street Journal is reporting x,’ and they’ll get all the traffic. Why would we do that?” So they drop the pay wall, “and take the traffic ourselves, thank you very much,” Murray said.

  3. Don’t charge for the most popular content on your site. “That’s the been the mistake that some people have made in the past,” Murray said. Items with broad appeal are better used to build traffic that can be turned into advertising revenue.

  4. Content behind a pay wall should appeal to niches. It may be easier to identify those opportunities with financial news, but Murray suggested, for instance, that a local newspaper could consider charging for coverage of high school sports. “To the people who want to read it,” he said, “they really want to read it because maybe their kids are involved. Maybe they’re willing to pay for that or maybe there’s a photography service that’s connected to that where you can download pictures of your kids or of the game. But only if you’re a subscriber.”

  5. The narrower the niche, perhaps the better. This was the bit of news in our interview: The Journal is planning what Murray called a “premium initiative” to sell “narrower information services” at a higher subscription rate to subsets of its readership. He was coy about what services will be offered but mentioned, as examples, energy coverage and some sort of news service for chief financial officers. (According to someone else I know at the Journal, those are, in fact, likely to be among the first offerings of this tiered-premium service.)