Time to Help Save Your Newspapers

The newspaper crisis is no longer just an industry conversation for those of us who work in and follow the media. Time‘s new cover story ‘How to Save Your Newspaper‘ is penned by former Time managing editor Walter Isaacson, who is arguing for paid-content of an iTunes-like variety — meaning people would pay-per-story.

I don’t think that subscriptions [a la WSJ.com] will solve everything — nor should they be the only way to charge for content. A person who wants one day’s edition of a newspaper or is enticed by a link to an interesting article is rarely going to go through the cost and hassle of signing up for a subscription under today’s clunky payment systems. The key to attracting online revenue, I think, is to come up with an iTunes-easy method of micropayment. We need something like digital coins or an E-ZPass digital wallet — a one-click system with a really simple interface that will permit impulse purchases of a newspaper, magazine, article, blog or video for a penny, nickel, dime or whatever the creator chooses to charge

Under a micropayment system, a newspaper might decide to charge a nickel for an article or a dime for that day’s full edition or $2 for a month’s worth of Web access. Some surfers would balk, but I suspect most would merrily click through if it were cheap and easy enough.

Gawker pointed out the other day that a practical micro-payment system for newspapers does not yet exist (though Isaacson points to examples like PayPal, TwitPay, and Spare Change). The larger problem however is one they also alluded to, which is why pay for one article when the same content can be found for free on blogs. One imagines paid-content is going to have to go hand-in-hand with some sort of enforced system of holding accountable sites that lift more than a minimal amount of copy from the news organization that created it.