This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Media Unspun email newsletter and is Copyright 2002 by Keith Dawson.
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Now How Much Would You Pay?

You're probably as tired as we are of business scandal stories. So let's turn to a subject dear to the hearts of Unspun writers and editors -- the increasing willingness of Netizens to pay for content online.

The Online Publishers Association this week released a study indicating that online spending for content is growing rapidly -- the first quarter of 2002 was up 155% from the year-ago period. The New York Times and reviewed the survey's findings. The Times story picked out the telling detail that most of the online spending is flowing to a few top outlets: "Of the 1,700 sites charging for content, the 100 with the most revenue drew 97% of all revenue and the top 50 sites drew 85% of the revenue."

Reporter Ciar Byrne, writing for the U.K. Guardian, seems an avid follower of online content business models. In recent days Byrne has covered the Financial Times experiment in paid content and the struggles of subscription pioneer The peach paper announced that a mere 17,000 of its 2.8 million regular online users have elected to pay up for access to the archive and other premium content -- 6/10 of 1%. But wait, that's good, according to the FT's CEO: "The revenue is outstripping what we expected and more people are taking the more expensive service,"

Reuters framed a story on paid content around's recent decision to pull the video clips off its Web site and roll them into a subscription package at $4.95 per month. (The Reuters piece was carried in the Hindustan Times and elsewhere.) The reporter was generally skeptical about consumers' willingness to pay for news on the Internet, concluding with: "Of course, there's always the television, where one can still find the Peter Jennings news broadcast ... for the low, low price of nothing."

But Matt Kempner, writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, cast doubt on the continuing viability of the decades-old model of ad-supported TV, under fire from ad-skipping technology from the likes of TiVo and ReplayTV. "It's like looking at an asteroid coming toward Earth," Kempner quoted one media watcher. "We're not sure where it's going to hit."

Turning to online music, covered the decision of to loosen up its paid service with unlimited downloads. The Los Angeles Times's Jon Healy looked more broadly at the online music business, concluding that the "legitimate" music sites can't compete for selection, let alone price, with the free download scene. Healy quoted a band agent on the futility of Pressplay's attempts to lure users into an essentially dead-end service: "Piling everybody into a car with no tires and an engine that malfunctions, we may have everybody in the car, but it's not going anywhere," - Keith Dawson

A Shift Registers in Willingness to Pay for Internet Content

More Americans cough up cash online says 17,000 now paying,7496,765179,00.html grabs a lifeline,7496,765642,00.html

Will consumers pay for news Web-casts? Stay tuned (Reuters),0003.htm

Is end of free TV in sight? (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Pressplay to offer unlimited downloads

Online Music Catalogs Lacking