co Is Paid Content Our Future? |

The New York Times has announced that beginning in 2011 it will be begin a metered pay system for its online news content. I have two questions:

  1. Is this the future for online news content?
  2. And is this the future for all online content?

Regarding the first question, The Times isn’t the first newspaper company to offer paid content online. The Wall Street Journal has been doing it for some time now. But we can’t ignore the fact that The New York Times is the most read newspaper in the world and its online offerings are some of the most read news and information as well. That says a lot. Most smaller newspapers follow the Times so it’s a good bet that this is what we’ll see in future news.

As for the rest of us, I think there will always be a need for free content and I think it would benefit most small businesses to provide it. That’s not to say that you can’t benefit by providing some paid content for your audience.

The question any small business owner has to answer when deciding whether to make your content free or put it behind a pay wall is this: What is its purpose? If you are building a rich information source such as The New York Times then paid content might be the way to go (though there are some ways to make free content pay as well – note Wikipedia). But if your purpose is to brand and market your company for the purpose of attracting new clients, free content is a must. No one is going to pay for the delivery sales pitches.

Paid content can be good for consumers. You don’t have to offer your content for free, but you should know your options.