I understand and agree. SOMEONE has to pay for reporters to keep an eye on governance. Without them, the consequences will be devastating to us all.
But — BUT — they need to remember Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail”, (and this is my take) There’s a price-point for most things for most people; college students aren’t going to pay as much as working folk for MP3’s or movies they can bit-torrent for free, but what if you gave them quality content (as students) for the price they’d be willing to pay to get it hassle free, DRM free, say .25 for a song, .99 for a movie.
The VOLUME of sales (now that e-distribution costs are nil), would still end up accumulating profit.
Not to forget that from a marketing side, the item sold is an advertisement for itself. If I can get a movie for a dollar that I really want to watch, Or a news service for .50 a month, I’ll pay for it, even if I don’t end up watching it/reading it. And that increases the chance that I’ll talk about that item, and that service, to my friends, and encourage them to use it as well. – Word-of-mouth AND a paid-for item, what could be better?
You could take a chunk of the dollars you usually spend paying for marketing/PR/advertising and plow that into keeping costs for the item low enough so that people do the marketing work themselves.
And the NYTimes (and other struggling media/information deliverers) would need to present the charge NOT as something they to TO the public, but as something they do FOR the public, in order to enable them to keep delivering a public benefit that could not be had without the charge.
I can’t say this enough, “It’s all about finding a price low enough so that MASSES of people can afford it and will pay for it because it’s simply too good an offer to refuse.” Or, that content providers need to make it more convenient to pay .50 a month to get the thing you idly enjoy, than the time you would have to spend hunting it down/downloading it for free.
This would connect to realizing that a college student’s price-point is different from what a businesses price-point would be.
I’m reminded of the restaurants I see in NYC that have a “discount” for local residents, or a cheaper “weekday” price than their weekend prices. What those establishments are really doing is finding a legal way tgo charge leisure and one-time visitors more than a regular user would pay. This is a recognition that the same item is worth different amounts to diffent people at different times.
We all know this intuitively, and commerce has always operated with these principles. Indian spices were shipped to Europe because they were worth enough more money there to pay for the packaging and shipping costs required to get them there.
So, WHAT you deliver (quality), WHERE you deliver the item (direct convenience to the user), WHEN you deliver it (timely for the user), HOW you deliver it (cost of distribution + user accessibility), and how much people are willing to pay for this quilty and convenience, makes the difference between profit and loss.
It’s about creating value, which -effectively- is about the difference between what it cost you to create and the the cost users will pay to use it. I do not see why these principles would fail if cleverly applied to media.