The State Of Paid Content

Walled Garden
Jusben and MorgueFile

Yesterday two big nuggets of info came down through the blogosphere: first, the news that the Wall Street Journal is launching a micropayment system this fall. And Rob Grimshaw, publisher of, told that newspapers are “going to need some other way to make money other than adverts.”

UPDATE: Today, Romenesko posted a MediaNews memo saying that that newspaper company, too, is exploring pay options. “To be clear, the brand value proposition to the consumer is that the newspaper is a product, whether in print or online, which must be paid for,” the memo says.

Is this the first flickerings of the Walled Garden coming back?

There’s more after the jump.

First let it be noted that the WSJ and FT already charge for subscriptions to their online editions, and as we’ve noted before, have done very well getting people to pay up. But both these news outlets are specialized. They have a reputation of providing actual monetary value to its readers in the form of business advice and news. Can you imagine USA Today trying the same thing? If somebody wants to find out tomorrow’s weather or who won last night’s game, they’ll just go elsewhere.

On the other hand, if prices per unit of information are sufficiently low and I don’t have to continually log in to new systems to pay, I could probably be enticed to pay here and there for articles. However, at least in the WSJ’s case, pricing will be “rightfully high,” according to Robert Thomson, editor in chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of the Journal.

Mashable says this move is a bad one. Like other pay wall ideas that have been bandied around, “link economy” advocates say that this sort of thing is what kills the Internet.

“If you put a price – any price – on an article in the Wall Street Journal, people will not be able to share it. Sites like Mashable won’t be able to link to it. Digg, Twitter, StumbleUpon…any content behind a paywall will receive zero traffic from all these social sites.”

So, what? Where do we go from here? Does giving up sharing outweigh the 50 cents or buck you get from the people who really want to read that article? Will it work?