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People Will and Do Buy Content; Information Isn’t Always Free

Folks like Jeff Jarvis have been pushing the idea that charging for information won’t work. I have been saying what else will work.

Rather than listening to the information-is free crowd, we should all be trying to figure out this dilemma as written about in The New York Times today:

Consumers are using their mobile phones to download tens of millions of games, songs, ring tones and video programs. And they shell out money for these items, even as they resist paying for similar digital goodies online using their computers.

It is a curious equation: pay for stuff on a tiny, low-resolution screen while getting some of the very same games and video free on a fancy widescreen monitor.

Here is part of the problem:

Content developers say consumers like the instant gratification of downloading on the go. By contrast, PC users have to go through a few more steps to pay for items online because, most of the time, they must enter credit card information for each purchase.

Research shows that the more steps a person must take to pay, the less likely he is to buy something. Besides, people have simply become used to paying for things on the phone.

Programs exist for one click payments at news sites. Bill Densmore has been pushing his ClickShare and Information Valet Project for years.

I don’t want to gouge audiences by forcing them to overpay for information, but I do want enough money available to pay journalists to provide high quality news and information. Paying for news would be a tiny fraction of all the money that is now being paid for content from games to ring tones. We can solve this problem. Rather than information is free, our mantra should be that high quality information is valuable and worthy of a few micro payments here and there.

2 Responses to “People Will and Do Buy Content; Information Isn’t Always Free”

  1. Jeff Jarvis Says:

    A game you might play again and again. A news story you don’t. The information in a news story becomes a commodity. A performance doesn’t. Great if we could charge. But wishing doesn’t make it true.

  2. Leonard Witt Says:

    So Jeff, for starters if I said, as of tomorrow, you can’t read The New York Times anywhere without paying for it and if I said you can’t listen to NPR without paying for it, what would you do?

    By the way, I did a search of The New York Times at BuzzMachine and got more than 10 pages of references.