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Charging for Online Content Won't Make it Any More Accurate

Attempts to get consumers of news to pay for what they are reading continue to stumble ahead. We have already covered previous announcements from News Corporation that they will be making their online content fee based, and the challenges and struggles that they and other content providers face in getting their consumers to pay for what they provide.

News Corporation is continuing to move forward with their efforts to lock away their content, with both News Corporation and Associated Press making announcements at a recent Beijing conference that they are getting fed up with the "content kleptomaniacs" who are "co-opting" the content that they provide.

The irony of delivering such a message in a Chinese forum appears to have been lost on those delivering the message, but it is getting to the point that, unless they hurry up and get on with locking away their content so that the market can determine for itself whether these content providers actually provide enough benefit to make it a viable business model, they are going to risk making themselves even more irrelevant to the wider public.

Other content providers seem to be expanding the reach of their fee-based services, with claims that The Economist will be moving more of their historical content behind their fee-based services, and shortening the period that content is available free of charge. While there is no obvious statement at The Economist regarding this impending move (to happen tomorrow), the soon-to-be fee-based content is still available freely.

The move to fee-based services might see an overall reduction in the variety and number of available services, even including those that have moved to a fee-based offering. That doesn't help continued claims of poor fact-checking, outright false claims and inability to determine trustworthiness of sources, especially previously unseen single-source reporting. Recently ZDNet were caught out when they claimed that Yahoo had turned over usernames to Iran following recent protests, a stance they have since redacted. Reputation might take a long time to build up, but it doesn't take very long to destroy, especially in an environment where the rush to be first is more important than being right.

There are some organisations that are dedicated to being both when it comes to reporting and which will continue to provide news freely to readers.

12 October 2009

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