TV News Should Beat Newspapers To The Punch: Become Pay TV-Like Subscription Services

TV news always has had the technological and high-profile edge over other news platforms -- an edge it should look to keep.

Newspapers executives believe they still have a lot to offer consumers -- so much so, many publishers are considering charging for articles online. Right now, many have papers have been offering online content free in return for advertising consumers have to click around in order to read stories.

With the blogging world growing exponentially, the theory is that consumers will pay for the real deal, as investigative reporting takes on increased value in coming years, with Internet users looking to weed out commentary and blather from real facts -- or as real information as anyone can get  these days.

Consider Rupert Murdoch's change of heart regarding the online Wall Street Journal. News Corp. will now keep it as a subscription model rather than moving to free and ad-supported content as it initially planned. This seems to support current newspaper sentiment.  

If print news is able to move to a pay model online, what about TV news? Maybe in a few years from now the likes of CNN or CBS News should consider becoming pay-TV news channels (as well as paid content sites).

That's right. Just like HBO and Showtime. (I can feel the shuddering of cable and network news advertising sales executives right now).

The downside: Becoming a pay-TV service would instantly cut their respective subscriber universes' in half -- if not by two-thirds of what they are now. The upside: in ten years, viewer fractionalization will come to all networks near you.

Some critics have pointed out that newspapers shouldn't follow the pay-TV cable model because, well, they aren't TV. Not only that, but coverage of local and international news, sports and city-council meetings isn't the high-profile stuff of a "Sex and the City," "Dexter," Weeds" or "Entourage."

But TV news organizations are different because they are... TV.

Right now there would be little need for cable TV news groups to take on this play now. (Broadcast TV news operations may be another story). Last year, the historic political season witnessed all cable news networks having major rating increases. Some, such as Fox News and MSNBC, are still seeing growth.

In a fast-changing  universe, people still crow that content is king. This includes real news content.



2 comments about "TV News Should Beat Newspapers To The Punch: Become Pay TV-Like Subscription Services ".
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  1. Dave Robinson from O'Leary and Partners, May 15, 2009 at 6 p.m.

    Fascinating idea. While I love the idea of citizen journalists, at the end of the day, we need professional journalists (just as we need professional firefighters, policemen, etc.). And a model has to be built in order to pay professional journalists. Your idea has many possibilities - pay channels devoted to "lighter" news, or international news or, political news, etc. Nicely done, sir!

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, May 15, 2009 at 6:05 p.m.

    Although it seems a good idea, and you've given a splendid rationale, I fear that no one will ever be able to sell anything anymore, because there will always be somebody willing to give it away for free, to get a toe-hold of audience attention. Then when that free service decides to monetize, another free service will rear its head, just in time to spoil everything. Business models are based on scarcity and barriers to entry. But the Internet killed scarcity and barriers forever. Good luck, old and new media, surviving a world of abundance.

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