getting readers to pay for their news

01Nov08

One intriguing experiment in a new journalism business model is spot.us, which was just launched with funding from the Knight News Challenge. The idea is that people donate money to fund coverage of stories they are interested in. Journalists can make pitches or the public can give tips on what they want to read about.

I know it’s early yet, but I don’t see that the site has received enough donations to fully fund any story. And most of the stories seem to just have $25 donations by the creator of the site, David Cohn. I wish him all the best, but I’m not sure relying on audiences to pay for their journalism is a sound model.

Audiences have shown they are unwilling to pay for content on the Web, except for highly specialized cases like the Wall Street Journal’s subscriber fees (where I suspect many accounts are simply investment banks and traders whose company pays for the subscription). Advertising is the economic engine of the Web, as Google has proven, along with highly specialized sites catering to a niche audience willing to pay. Joe the Plumber doesn’t even want to pay taxes, so why would he pay for his news?

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