So what exactly is newspaper web ‘premium’ content? Please tell me

By Steve Outing

So, it appears that we’ve passed the point within the newspaper industry of utter panic and all the publishers will not be colluding (ahem… I mean cooperating) to put most of their websites’ content behind pay walls. At least that CEO/publisher-group insanity is over — I hope.


Instead, the meme within the industry is something I’ve long supported: Let’s keep most of our news content online free, so that we don’t lose advertisers and high reader numbers, and maintain our “googlejuice,” but let’s create more “premium” content and services that we can charge for … and people will find worthy of paying.

But what is this premium content that newspaper companies can produce for the web (and mobile devices) that will get online users spending?

This is a difficult question, with so much great information and news available elsewhere on the web for free. And then there’s the little matter of many newspaper staffs having been cut so much in the last couple years. Who’s going to produce this high-value content?

I’d like to use this blog item as a starting point for a discussion about what newspapers can create that they can sell. Please use the comments feature to share your ideas!

I’ll get things started with a comment of my own. It should be first in the list unless someone beats me to it…

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

61 Responses to "So what exactly is newspaper web ‘premium’ content? Please tell me"

  1. Crosbie Fitch
    Crosbie Fitch 8 years ago .Reply

    Journalist on one side, 1,000 readers who want them to write on the other.
    The work involved in producing an article on one side, the money offered in equitable exchange on the other.
    The production of an article in exchange for $10 each. Or whatever deal the journalist/reader reckons will be most attractive/lucrative, possibly $1 each. Who knows?

    ‘non-paying customer’ is an oxymoron.

    All payments, all exchanges, all contracts in a free market are voluntary.

  2. Steve Outing
    Steve Outing 8 years ago .Reply

    Crosbie: I’m confused. Didn’t you just describe the model? Is what you’re thinking different than its model?

    More importantly, how can we scale this up so that all the vital stories that should be told get reported?

  3. Crosbie Fitch
    Crosbie Fitch 8 years ago .Reply

    Steve, it’s the ‘work for money’ model that’s been tried and tested for millennia.

    In the context of intellectual work on the Internet it’s been described in various incarnations, e.g. Street Performer Protocol. It’s been implemented as,, and and many others.

    What I describe above is simply putting it crudely for clarity and brevity, but by no means should that be seen as the limit of its potential elegance ( is a beginning, not an end).

    My point is that we should focus on the fundamental participants in the market place, the primary sources of work and money, and facilitate an exchange between them.

    There is nothing else except willing seller and willing buyer. If there’s value anyone can add, they can add it later.

  4. Crosbie Fitch
    Crosbie Fitch 8 years ago .Reply

    Scaling it up is something I’ve thought about for quite some time, and also about minimising its friction. The is my latest effort to make it scalable. I’m currently working on making the decision to sponsor as simple and as frictionless as possible. I think the model comes into its own when it operates on a continuous and large scale, as it can then be fluid rather than discrete and discontinuous.

    Instead of specific projects that remain in limbo until sufficient interest can be drummed up, I envisage journalists continually producing their work in exchange for continuous sponsorship/patronage from an interested audience continuously increasing in size (and revenue). Both journalist and audience must have confidence in each other to continue their quality and patronage, and in time the assurance of this will become self-evident.

  5. Bob Wyman
    Bob Wyman 8 years ago .Reply

    Maria Bartiromo, anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo” and host of the nationally syndicated “Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo,” provides an example of charging for premium coverage to compliment otherwise advertising supported news coverage.
    She and CNBC have teamed up with to publish a for-pay newsletter ($299/year) which will compliment Bartiromo’s on-air, ad-supported “journalism”…

    bob wyman

  6. […] beyond “unique” and “premium” content. (Steve Outing recently prompted an interesting thread on what, exactly, premium content is.) I didn’t come away with a clearer idea of what his […]

  7. […] read on the internet recently was not from of a newspaper, magazine or even a blogger. It was an open thread asking the question “what exactly is premium content,” populated with interested and […]

  8. chano
    chano 8 years ago .Reply

    ….but an iTunes or work-alike for text would connect writers and readers at equitable prices.

  9. […] Outing – So What Is Exactly Newspaper Web Premium Content “What we need is an “unwalled garden,” in which users are free to choose from an […]

  10. […] by providing benefits beyond content (or perhaps including some high-value special content), as suggested by Steve Outing. The Times could become a leader in direct sales for customers or some other creative revenue […]

  11. Stig
    Stig 6 years ago .Reply

    Brilliant topic Steve, but I see I’m pretty late to the party. I suspect since the time your comments were posted things have become even more crazy for publishers. My local newspaper, nearly 100 years old, recently gave up the ghost, dumped most of their staff, and went to an online only format… no more printed news.

    There is far too much content online to even think about premium content for anything but niche markets. But heck..isn’t that what magazines have been doing for decades ?

    Getting back to my local paper, they are making a go of an online, paid subscription, because they focus on local and regional news and events. Items of special interest if you live in the community, and they deliver alerts each morning via e-mail for the topics I care about.

    ..Brave new world.

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