Will Getting Rid of Free Online Content Save The Newspaper Industry? - Technologist
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Will Getting Rid of Free Online Content Save The Newspaper Industry?

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

The days of reading a daily newspaper appear to be part of the past, and newspapers are trying to come up with solutions to remain viable. With online content available on the internet, less people are reading printed newspapers. Free online content is available, but will charging readers for online content save the newspaper industry?  The answer, unfortunately for now, appears to be "no," according to a recent poll.

An Adwork Media/Harris Poll of last month indicates that while 64% of Americans aged 55 and above still read a daily newspaper practically every day, the percentages of readership go down with age.  Indeed, 44% of Americans aged 45-54, 36% aged 35-44, and only 23% aged 18-34 read a daily newspaper most days.  And 17% of Americans aged 18-34 never read a daily newspaper.

These readership percentages obviously are not good news for the newspaper industry.  So, what is to be done to solve the problem and to try to increase revenue?

One option would be for newspapers to charge a monthly fee for readers to gain access to online content.  But here again, there is bad news, as revealed by the poll.

In fact, 77% of online adults report that they would not be interested in paying anything to gain newspaper content over the Internet.  And even though some may be willing to pay, 19% of online adults only would be willing to pay between $1 and $10 per month, with only 5% saying that they might pay more than $10 per month.

Perhaps because online readers are used to free online content; they have come to expect that, especially while it is currently available.  Back in the Napster days, there was a prevailing view among some that online music should be free for download.  Now of course, Apple is making a fortune as people purchase songs from iTunes. 

So, it is possible that the game later could change in terms of pay-for-play with online newspaper content.  But, at least for now, newspapers cannot count on that future revenue stream, and they need to come up with other ways to survive.

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP (http://www.duanemorris.com) where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes.  His Web site is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com.  To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line.

This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.  The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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