Fine then; take a look at Doc Searls’ plan that envisions a world where creators do charge for content, but consumers determine what price to pay.
It’s easy to dismiss the notion as naive or inadequate, but consider please his observation that “Whatever readers decide to pay, the sum of it won’t be $0, which is what readers are paying [online] now.”
More importantly, this approach recognizes that we have no idea what a news story is worth, and never have. In the days of scarcity and monopoly, price was a function of how badly readers wanted any part of the package we sold. It came only in a one-size-fits-all unit with the cost of delivery built in. If they wanted sports, 50¢. If they wanted world news, 50¢. How about classified listings for a used car? 50¢.
In that world, we never had any idea what unbundled news content was worth; there was no way for readers to show us. It was a binary vote from them: I'll take it all at your price, or I won't take it at all.
In a today’s media economy of abundance and zero cost of copying, we need to find out what news is worth. Unlike many, I don’t believe the old revenue model – chiefly ad sales – is going away entirely, but it certainly will never be the same. Tomorrow’s business model will involve (among other things) less revenue from advertising but vastly lower cost of distribution. What would we charge for a news story if we didn’t have to print and deliver a paper?
What would we need to charge? In the days when I looked at McClatchy's numbers, newsrooms cost about $300 million a year and internet revenues were approaching $200 million. The newsrooms are obviously smaller now, and internet sales at McClatchy continue to climb.
Discussion about paying for professional newsgathering these days includes ideas about philanthropy, non-profit status, even financing like NPR. EmanciPay deserves to be part of the discussion.
Rather than describe what Searls has in mind, I'd ask you to read it, ponder it, and let me hear what you think.
Think of EmanciPay as a way to unburden sellers of the need to keep trying to control markets that are beyond their control anyway. Think of it as a way that “free market” can mean more than “your choice of captor.” Think of it as a way that “customer relationships” can be worthy of the label because both sides are carrying their ends of the relationship burden — rather than the sellers’ side carrying the whole thing (as CRM systems do today).