Publishing company Wilson and Horton is considering joining opposition publisher INL in charging for content online.
This week INL announced it would charge users $1 to search and $3 to download stories from its Stuff archive. Now Wilson and Horton interactive general manager Mark Ottoway says the New Zealand Herald is considering a similar move for its online site.
"It's one of the areas that everyone has to look at to get some money out of this model."
Ottoway says there are no firm plans to launch a paid search service although "that's the sort of thing that can happen reasonably quickly".
He says he is very interested in the move by INL and will be watching closely, "particularly in the New Zealand market, where the number of genuine content creators is reasonably limited".
He says that may mean New Zealand customers will be different to US customers which have a much larger pool of free news and content to draw from. The biggest problem, says Ottoway, is that there are still very few people willing to pay for content despite the moves from providers.
"While there's a turnaround there's still a lot of resistance there." He says online content providers need a business model to stay afloat.
"At the end of the day businesses are there for one reason and it's not charity."
Two recent reports outline the worldwide move towards paid subscriptions as a model for online content. The first, from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, surveyed 1000 top Australian and New Zealand chief executives and found that offering online content for free is "unsustainable" and will die out as a model in the next few years to be replaced by content packagers or aggregators that will charge for access to archives, or charge a flat monthly fee."
“Top content packagers enjoy ... a large, loyal user base which attracts content developers and advertisers, which in turn increases the appeal of the site, which creates more users,” says the report.
Forrester Research's report The Content Site Turnaround, says 80% of content sites are not profitable and that the online advertising model cannot sustain most content sites.
"The advertising model isn't dead but hasn't delivered the support necessary for the investment so we need to look at other options."
IDGNet publisher Bob Pinchin says IDG Communications has no plans to charge for access to archives.
"Basically I don't think the model works - you're trying to charge for old news and I've yet to see that model work anywhere in the world. I don't think it's a good thing for the visitor because it doesn't provide added value for the reader."