What would you pay for online?

The Times paywall went up on Friday, charging visitors £2 a week or £1 a day for access to the well known UK newspaper’s site and that of its sister publication The Sunday Times.

It’s led to much debate about the wisdom of charging for online content, particularly content that’s generally available elsewhere in one form or another.

How will it end? As the Beehive City blog notes, “nobody really has a clue.”

There is always of course a chance that Murdoch and his accountants do know what they’re doing, and that they’ll attract the low-ish numbers they need to make it financially viable. Mind you, not all their writers share the bean-counters’ enthusiasm for the move.

As I rarely read The Time in print and even less frequently visit their website, the move won’t effect me (unless other publishers follow their lead, which looks … unlikely, to say the least).  And I don’t seem to be alone in expecting free online news, but being perfectly willing to buy a newspaper once a week.

Nonetheless, it did get me thinking about paying for online services (no sniggering at the back please).

There’s so much available online for free, and because of this a huge sense of entitlement that services and content should be free online – starting with email, video, music, social networking tools, the list goes on and on.

Within all of this, which of your favourite websites would you pay to access? Your favourite newspaper’s, Twitter, Facebook or even the multi-tasking, hydra-headed beast that is Google?

The trouble is, half the time these sites work because they’re free – Twitter’s exponential growth, and therefore its utility, would not have been possible under a paid-for model. And the other half of the time a free alternative is (ahem) freely available.

When community-building website Ning.com announced plans to charge earlier this year it wasn’t long before lists of free alternatives began circulating on Twitter.

For me, maybe I’ll upgrade my free WordPress.com account to a paid for WordPress.org one in the future – particularly if I ever have enough time to start playing around with its CSS code. I also find virtual bookshelf sites like Goodreads and Shelfari particularly useful. But ultimately I can’t say for certain I’d ever pay for them.

5 responses to “What would you pay for online?

  1. I tend to get my news (everything from books to politics, events, etc to gaming) from multiple sources, all of which are free. I rarely buy newspapers and when I do it is at the weekend. I find reading a paper a slower, much more intense affair, whilst online I tend to go for a lighter, skimming type of reading. I also find online news less in-depth and less comfortable to read, further putting me off considering paying for an online news service like the Telegraph’s.

    • tangleofwires

      Thanks for the comment Jose. I know what you mean, I can’t imagine there ever being a single source, on- or off-line, that could cater for all my tastes these days. Beyond a weekly newspaper I only use free sources too.
      However, i actually really want the traditional media to find a model that will work, because there are certain sections of it that I find very infomative, useful and entertaining. But I don’t think paywalls will be it.

  2. I think your second issue – namely that many of the most popular sites work only because they are free – is the most important. I might pay for Twitter but if the people who interest me chose not to then i’d be paying for nothing.

    • tangleofwires

      Thanks for the comment Eyoki. I think you’re right, and would only add that, continuing with the example of Twitter, another thing that could disuade people paying for it – even assuming they had the inclination – is that takes a while to work out how to use it. So it would exactly be an intuitive sell.

  3. Pingback: Indian railways on the BBC « A Tangle Of Wires

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