What price content?

I was listening to a very interesting debate from the Charlie Rose program about the future of newspapers with Walter Isaacson of “Time,” Robert Thomson of “Wall Street Journal” and Mort Zuckerman of “The New York Daily News”.

A couple of items caught my attention. Firstly the comment that Google devalues everything – the argument being that through Google, advertisers can target ads anywhere on the web regardless and without thought towards the content quality against which the ads run. That’s true, although as someone who focuses on audiences, I also have to note that audience quality is also a highly questionable sales item that I have rarely observed to have been delivered or proven in reality (no site I ever worked with could give me any reasonable guarantee my ad was being seen by anyone I was actually trying to target).

The second item I picked up on was the comment that publishers are in danger of loosing the relationship with readers in order to chase revenue from the advertiser. Now that has often been put forward as the case in many B2B fields where magazines shamelessly would jump on the next “hot” topic in order to generate ad revenue. Is this any different now on the web?

I would argue that it is. The problem is that now site designers are looking at all the ways they can integrate ad messages into sites – leading advertising to become so intertwined with content – that in many cases users are getting even less original content and more “ad created content” than ever before.

So at what point does this turn full circle. Does the subscription model ensure freedom from this advertising/content bond? If so can publishers who have so far offered content for free ever realistically charge for it and move away from advertising. With so much out there do readers even value content quality as much as they used to especially the “web generation” who have probably little loyalty to brands especially when getting news from Google news feeds.

What price content indeed.

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