How much unique content is out there?

August 9, 2009 by  
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Last week Rupert Murdoch announced that News Corporation would push ahead with the introduction of pay-per-view online content. Since then there have been suggestions Fairfax would follow, and the Boston Globe’s boston.com has also started to head in that direction.

My question is, “How much unique content is out there?”

The arguments in favor of paywalls have largely focused on the value of unique content that is produced by media outlets. I would like to see an objective analysis and review of unique content. I can only assume some sort of exhaustive analysis has informed the direction we are all being pushed towards.

I had already put this question to journalism academic Julie Posetti earlier in the week in an email, but Murdoch’s comments prompted me to ask the question again publicly.
Are there any in-depth studies looking at unique content in newspapers or their online sites, and what do those studies conclude?

On Thursday night, ABC’s Lateline Business reported plans to introduce paywalls at all News Corporation outlets by next year’s Northern summer. In a recorded teleconference Murdoch is heard saying that, to make a paywall work, News Corp would need to “make our content better and differentiate it from other people“.

RUPERT MURDOCH: We just make our content better, and differentiate it from other people and I believe that if we are successful, we’ll be followed by all the media.

Watch the video or read the transcript of the three-minute Lateline Business report on their site.

Or listen to what was said by just Rupert Murdoch here:
[podcast]http://earleyedition.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/murdoch-teleconference.mp3[/podcast]

The wording used sounds more like a statement of future intent – this is what we must do – but much of the paywall argument to date has focused on the unique content that newspapers and their online sites are currently giving away for free. I think using the Wall Street Journal as proof of concept is a bit flawed, because it is very different to a “paper of record”. If WSJ are generally targeting a specific market with market-related content, then they could be described as a niche publication. Is a paper of record that covers the gamut of local, national and world news able to drill down and provide unique content? That is, content that won’t be easily found elsewhere, and provides value to the reader.

I’m hoping a study exists, or some clever postgraduate student is currently working on it. It would be illogical to discuss the possibility of making people pay for unique content without a thorough assessment of the quantity of same.

An interesting one that just popped up yesterday in The Australian’s Media & Marketing section was that subscription paid off for one site after just three weeks.
Subscribers turn profit for NZ site | The Australian

Related reading:
Murdoch On Leading The Charging Charge | paidContent
This Is Rupert’s Last Stand: Making You Pay
Rupert Murdoch to charge to view news websites by 2010 | Media | The Guardian
Roy Greenslade: Murdoch is wrong to charge for online content | Media | guardian.co.uk
News Limited working on paid net models | The Australian
Bloggers may howl, but cash for content makes sense | The Australian

UPDATE:
To be perfectly clear on this, I don’t see a paywall working as a flat entry fee for the entirety of a masthead news site. It’s no secret that the internet’s disruption to the traditional business model is choice. People will only pay to get *exactly* what they want. Niche markets…you’ve heard it all before.
If there has to be an argument for paywalls, then the case of the WSJ is illustrative: people are willing to pay for premium industry insight and business-critical information. In Australia that might similarly translate to the business section of the paper, or quality reporting on state politics.

But then again, it might not. The biggest threat to the paywall will be free quality content available from places like the ABC and BBC.

Boyer Lecture 6 – The 21st century: comforting the afflicted. And afflicting the comfortable.

December 30, 2008 by  
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A series of Wordle word clouds, using the text from Rupert Murdoch’s Boyer Lectures.

Lecture 6: The 21st century: comforting the afflicted. And afflicting the comfortable.

The Oxford of Rupert Murdoch’s youth was one of the most privileged places on earth. But freedom and information have changed the order of things. On a global scale more people than ever are taking advantage of the revolution. And that’s how it should be.

Rupert Murdoch Boyer Lectures

To read the transcripts or download the audio of the Boyer Lectures, go to http://www.abc.net.au/rn/boyerlectures

Boyer Lecture 5 – The global middle class roars

December 30, 2008 by  
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A series of Wordle word clouds, using the text from Rupert Murdoch’s Boyer Lectures.

Lecture 5: The global middle class roars
Rupert Murdoch’s recent trips to China and India have convinced him of one thing: there is no alternative to economic growth as a remedy for poverty. Caste and communism have condemned hundreds of millions to wretched lives

Rupert Murdoch Boyer Lectures

To read the transcripts or download the audio of the Boyer Lectures, go to http://www.abc.net.au/rn/boyerlectures

Boyer Lecture 4 – Fortune favours the smart

December 30, 2008 by  
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A series of Wordle word clouds, using the text from Rupert Murdoch’s Boyer Lectures.

Lecture 4: Fortune favours the smart.
An important theme of the lectures is the pressing need for Australia to develop human capital. But to do this successfully our schools need serious reform, otherwise the global bar will seem set far beyond our reach.

Rupert Murdoch Boyer Lectures

To read the transcripts or download the audio of the Boyer Lectures, go to http://www.abc.net.au/rn/boyerlectures

Boyer Lecture 3 – The future of newspapers: moving beyond dead trees

December 30, 2008 by  
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A series of Wordle word clouds, using the text from Rupert Murdoch’s Boyer Lectures.

Stephen Quinn created this Wordle, and after seeing it on his GlobalMojo blog I decided to create one for each of Rupert Murdoch’s lectures in the Boyer Lectures series.

Lecture 3: The future of newspapers: moving beyond dead trees?
Rupert Murdoch at heart is a traditional newspaperman. But he sees the wood for the trees. Newspapers will thrive in the 21st century if proprietors fully comprehend what it means to be alive in the era of information.

Rupert Murdoch Boyer Lectures

To read the transcripts or download the audio of the Boyer Lectures, go to http://www.abc.net.au/rn/boyerlectures

Boyer Lecture 2 – Who’s afraid of new technology?

December 30, 2008 by  
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A series of Wordle word clouds, using the text from Rupert Murdoch’s Boyer Lectures.

Lecture 2: Who’s afraid of new technology?
Technology has helped transform the world. Some say it has turned it upside down. Rupert Murdoch argues that we must not be prisoners of the past – modern day Luddites – if we are to succeed in the golden era.

Rupert Murdoch Boyer Lectures

To read the transcripts or download the audio of the Boyer Lectures, go to http://www.abc.net.au/rn/boyerlectures

Boyer Lecture 1 – Aussie rules: bring back the pioneer.

December 30, 2008 by  
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A series of Wordle word clouds, using the text from Rupert Murdoch’s Boyer Lectures.

Lecture 1: Aussie rules: bring back the pioneer.
In his first lecture Rupert Murdoch scans the future and beholds a golden era. But will we be part of it? The Australia he sees simply is not prepared for the challenges ahead. A classic Russell Drysdale painting provides inspiration.

Rupert Murdoch Boyer Lectures

To read the transcripts or download the audio of the Boyer Lectures, go to http://www.abc.net.au/rn/boyerlectures