Paying for online content: it’s the right thing for a journalist to do

I work in an industry that is changing dramatically and struggling to find ways to keep it solvent. Our users want the information we (journalists) provide and increasingly they want that via the Internet or a mobile device. But many news organizations are struggling to find ways to provide that information in a way that can be monetized. If journalism is to survive, someone has to pay for it, we can’t continue to give away all that great content we’re producing. And that means that I need to pay, too.

Last month I finally bit the bullet and decided to pay for the online version of one of our local newspapers. I go to the site several times a day and quickly run out of my 10 free pages per month. When Columbia Tribune first started its version of a pay wall I did what many people did: used different browsers to get additional free page views per month. I have three browsers on my computer and didn’t feel like adding more. Plus, as a professor, trying to teach students all about journalism, it seemed to me that I should be doing the right thing: paying for the hard work Trib journalists have done and not find ways to cheat the system.

Today I gave in and gave money to an organization I’m less confident of but find myself using often: Wikipedia. We teach our students not to use the site as a source but as a reference to other, credible sources. Even with that kind of usage I find myself going to Wikipedia many times per month, so I’ve decided to make a donation to their cause. With all of its faults, there are a lot of benefits to Wikipedia and I often use it as a starting point for research. In some cases, it’s the first and only place I need for the information I need (what is a pork pie hat?) As often as I use it, I should be throwing some money their way.

Then one day someone paid for one of my posts on this blog via Kachingle. I had no idea that could happen. I know that our paper, the Missourian, uses Kachingle, but I’d never looked into it. So after I received a payment I decided to look into it as a way I could be helping to support more good works of journalism.

I have to say that the purpose of Kachingle makes a lot of sense to me. With the Internet we’re usually bouncing from site to site, reading a little here, a little there, a video on one site, an in-depth story on another. I like the idea of mini payments (I think they call them micro payments) because I can support these various journalistic works for as little as a few cents per piece instead of having to pay a monthly amount for each of the sites I visited. The problem is that I can’t figure out how to do it. I will be the first to admit that I have read all of the instructions — that’s because I found them confusing.

So I need Kachingle for Dummies. Anyone out there want to walk me through it?

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One response to “Paying for online content: it’s the right thing for a journalist to do

  1. What if there aren’t enough people like you to keep news profitable? The news industry is facing a classic case of the Tragedy of the Commons. Everybody knows that news is integral to our democracy but I would dare to say most are not willing to pay for it. The way they have gotten around this problem in many Western industrialized countries is by subsidizing much of the news industry. Examples are the BBC in the UK and all the major newspapers in Sweden. I know with the kind of dysfunctional system we’re dealing with right now and where some in Congress continue to advocate cutting funds for NPR, government subsidy of the news industry is out of the question. However, I still think it might be the only way to save the journalism industry. If nothing else, I think some news organizations need a bailout to keep them afloat until we figure out how to make the news industry sustainable. I asked Dana Perino if the Bush administration would be willing to bail out the news industry and she didn’t hesitate to say yes. I know Gibbs scoffed at the idea during a White House presser a while back. When I met him I was going to tell him what Perino had said but when I did finally meet him he looked so tired I wussed out and let the man be. Majorly dumb move on my part.

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