The Newscene | The information must be for the “free of charge”

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The information must be for the “free of charge” generations

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Konan Kouassi

This is the third of 5 from our series Introducing The Newscene, leading up to our official beta launch on Friday 3rd of May. We will be releasing a new part every weekday, so watch this space & follow us. Click for Part 1 & Part 2
Publishers’ original sin was putting their content online for free. As a consequence, we’ve ended up with whole generations of people ready to pay €15 for an avocado toast, twice a week; $80 for a fitness club membership that they barely use; but who are also unwilling to pay for information.
I’ve submitted this thought to Reddit r/journalism and here is the most meaningful answer I got: “Since everything seems “free” — a lie -, what’s the point in paying to be informed?”
“information wants to be free”Stewart Brand
This is one of the main arguments of those who claim that information should be free. But it would be wrong to replace a nuanced and principled quote with a thoughtless caricature. The first part of the Silicon Valley futurist’s quote was: ‘information wants to be expensive because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life.’ I mean,
  • Make information as affordable as possible? Definitely yes.
  • Open access to the data and media produced at public expense, because this makes better science, better knowledge, and better culture — and because we already paid for it with taxes and licence fees? Definitely yes.
  • Be able to build on earlier creative works in order to create new, original works because this is the basis of all creativity? Absolutely!
  • Someone has to pay for things that come with expenses and in the case of news, it shouldn’t primarily be advertising or the wealthiest.
  • ‘Free of charge’ shouldn’t be the only “freedom” we defend.
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk illustration by Laurène Boglio (boglio_boglio) for Little White Lies Magazine
Still, the same generations are backing the rise of maker communities
Let’s look at recent membership & subscription success stories
Patreon, the creator community today represents 100k creators backed by 3 million patrons, with roughly half a billion collected last year. PER research found out that millennials were more generous than their elders when it comes to donating online with services like Patreon.
The renaissance in television was driven by a better, non-advertising-driven business model. Even though there’s still plenty of free and ad-supported TV, hundreds of millions of households pay Netflix alone for an original, differentiated ad-free fare.
It’s the same for music, the consumer offering is far superior to anything we had before, and there are more options for creators. Far more musicians are making money, and it’s way easier than ever before to get your music out to a fanbase.
The same generation that is supposedly behind that “information should be free” motto, pays for Netflix and Spotify… despite the fact that there are so much music and movies everywhere on the Internet. So maybe there is a spread between supply and demand here. An imbalance between what people want in terms of information, how they want their information to be packaged, and what publishers are offering today.
That’s where memberships can help publishers
Patreon research data shows that none of their top earners has more than 10,000 patrons. Their success comes from their devotion to creating something incredibly specific for which people are ready to pay. It seems like when it comes to memberships, it’s no longer only about the size of your readership but also about how much your audience cares. How can you amass fanatically passionate audiences? That’s why memberships shouldn’t be a slick or fluffy way to repackage subscriptions. Instead, it’s the way to deliberately reimagine the newsroom.
Paula Scher (Pentagram) for “undo stigma” campaign
Bottom Line
Memberships can be a way to fulfil both needs. Publishers need to build a loyal reader base and readers need to feel like they’re part of a community, hearing an intimate, trusted voice.
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