I am new to virtual business and online communities. Not brand new, I grew up with facebook, email, nba.com, and Google, which was the extent of my relationship with the Internet. A couple months ago this changed. After landing my first “actual job,” post-college, in the real world, I find myself spending a surprising amount of time in cyberspace. The Internet keeps me updated on current events, helps me with work, pays bills, keeps me organized, allows me to socialize with friends, and provides my daily fix for sports.
Since this inevitable marriage, my long lasting innocent flirtation with sports information has grown into a full-fledged adulterous affair. ESPN.COM has become the second website I visit each morning after my email. I check it throughout the day and have a vested interest in numerous story lines from an array of different sports. However, the other day when I came across an article I wanted to read about Tom Brady, my favorite website asked for a fee. $7 dollars a month! I was incredulous. Not believing my misfortune, I immediately found a different website with a similar article that I read for free.
This is my point. For journalism to survive in an increasingly digital age it needs to make itself more accessible to readers, not less. It’s only a matter of time before newspapers are completely gone. Less than 1 million people subscribe to the New York Times paper in this country, but their website gets over 30 million hits a day. People love good journalism – sadly, nowadays, only if its free. But it’s not completely free. To read certain pieces by highly respected columnists on ESPN.COM and newyorktimes.com you have to subscribe online. This hurts more than it helps. People are not reading the most important articles for the inconvenience of $7 dollars a month.
As soon as someone sees a fee attached to an article they will go somewhere else. There are endless possibilities online and there will always be the next best thing. Have news outlets learned nothing from the lessons of Napster, Limewire, surfthechannell, and any other website that was free but started charging people money and went under?
The solution to newspapers becoming profitable again is in advertising. If 30 million repeat offenders (visiting the website daily) are reading the New York Times online a day, major companies need to take advantage of this and push their products harder. How many minds can Chevy influence if 30 million people see their product everyday? How many millions of dollars is that worth?
So stop withholding the good articles from us ESPN. Don’t lose valuable followers for $7 dollars a month.