Will News-Site Subscriptions Be More Costly for iPad Users or Media Companies?

25 Mar

As excited as Apple fanboys are about the iPad, it’s apparent that media companies are licking their chops even more. The Wall Street Journal announced today that they plan to charge iPad users $17.99 per month for a subscription to the business-savvy news source–which, if successful, would be a major boost for media companies. While its e-version is cheaper than the print, $17.99 per month might still be too steep for even the most loyal WSJ reader.

Considering up until a few months ago, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Variety, and many others popular news sources were free to read, the switch to charging readers for a product which in their minds should be free (since it was), is a very difficult hurdle to jump. Similar to how illegal music download sites like Napster and Kazaa fell hard after eliminating the “free” label, it is also possible that Wall Street Journal and other formerly-free site’s readers will be forced to find new, free news sources.

Another layer to the subscription debate is the competition pay sites might start to lose sleep over. For instance, it doesn’t take much for Jane or John Doe to create a blog in this giant, expanding blogosphere. Popular blogging-provider sites like Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr offer their blogging services for free, so if someone wanted to start a blog about, say, the U.S. Economy, it could be created within five minutes; serving up free news articles to the world. And depending on how reputable the blogger is,  it could even become an Internet staple. Think that’s too unrealistic? Tell that to Ariana Huffington.

Granted, it might take more than a small-time blogger to push a Thomas Friedman to the curb, but even if iPad users aren’t deterred by individual blogs, the HuffingtonPost.com is a very legitimate threat. Ariana Huffington has created an extremely profitable, and frankly, incomparable Web site–and one that is certainly an obstacle for the suffering media world. Unlike other mainstream media sources who pay its writers, HuffPo attracts hordes of writers–ranging from unknowns (like myself) to Alec Baldwin–to write for free. Without a financially draining print history or a paid writing staff, the Huffington Post has an edge like no other news source.

Even though there will be many iPad users who will relent and purchase the subscription sites, the emergence of bloggers and HuffingtonPost.com in particular, will undoubtedly woo the large percentage of frustrated news seekers.

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