Possible financial model for on-line newspapers?

Clay Shirky has an intriguing idea on how newspapers might adapt to the net – threshold paywall. You pay for over a certain number of page views – Newspapers, Paywalls, and Core Users

Underlying issue is the traditional newspaper model is a bundle – some local news generated by the paper, purchased national news, sports, comics, horoscope, Ann Landers, coupons, and classifieds.

People will pay a little for the bundle.  Bad experiences by several papers show that few people will pay to get through a paywall for the bundle.  The likely reason is that if you want just the horoscopes, or just national news, or just sports, there is far too much free stuff.

…if you rank readers by pages viewed in a month, the largest group by far, between a third and half of them, will visit only a single page. A smaller group will read two pages in a month, a still smaller group will read three, and so on, up to the most active reader, in a group by herself, who will read dozens of pages a day, hundreds in a month.

Who do you think will pay for on-line access?  The ones who want one or three page views a month?  Not a chance.

How about the ones who want 30 or 50 page views a month? Yeah. They will pay for the paper’s content.

So Mr. Shirky thinks the new model for papers will be a threshold paywall. Access up to X pages a month is free. Over that is $Y.

What does that do?

For advertisers, it delivers tons of people.

For very light readers, gives a few pages to people who only want a couple of pages (they are also given ads. See above.)

For heavy users, this gives them what they really want, lots and lots of content for which they will pay.

Check out the full post. I’ve not done it justice.

Hat tip: Seth Godin.

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