Flickr Pro and the freemium business model for newspapers

Given the recent developments around our house and the logical uptick in uploading to Flickr, I went ahead and took the $24.95/yr plunge.

What I get for my money: Unlimited uploading, unlimited image storage, unlimited bundling and feeding of images, and all the old stuff that had been pushed out of my top 200 by the new stuff has come back to life, which means you can once again see any and all of my vacation pictures from the last few years. I know, it’s ahrd to contain your excitement.

But the fact that I finally laid down some cash for a service I had used for free for a few years started the wheels turning in my head.

The question, as always: What are your online newspaper readers willing to pay for?

I’ve bitched and moaned about TimesSelect being a backwards way to pull your opinion leaders out of the public forum and hide them behind a paywall, but I’m starting to get over it. After all, it’s the News that Everyman needs, and that stays out in public where he can get at it.

But when we want just a little bit more, there it is, available for a price.

Freemium.

It’s the business model that makes Flickr and Feedburner and WordPress.com viable and perhaps profitable.

Create a tool that millions of users can play with for free, but make sure there are premium features they can pay just a little bit more to access. Make them look cool. Call them “Pros.”

Sooooooo if you’re not a big regional paper with a stable of columnists you can pull behind a paywall, what are the features that can get readers to shell out that little bit of cash?

It’s a damn fine question. There might be easy answers when it comes to classified advertising, but not news content. What exclusive content are you willing to pull out of the hands of the masses?

9 Replies to “Flickr Pro and the freemium business model for newspapers”

  1. I think that “free” is one of the reasons so many college papers are using the great news tool of College Publisher.

    Of course, it is not totally free; you give up your national advertising. But those of us who have not even put national online advertising on our radar, that’s something we’re happy to give up for the service. We might all regret that decision some day.

    But your comments above got me to thinking: What kinds of services might be available if College Publisher decided that it already had a viable “get it for free” tool and started adding premium extra tools?

    Right now one can tap into third parties, such as Flickr, WordPress, Blogger, Google calendar, YouTube, etc., and maybe even the extra-feature versions and plug them into College Publisher. But what if College Publisher expanded its business model to create premium services? Hmmmmm.

  2. People read (buy) local newspapers for such a wide variety of reasons, I think it would be difficult to put anything behind firewalls.
    There’s a startup that will allow your driver’s license to act as a debit card
    http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/may2007/sb20070515_503926.htm
    They charge a flat 15¢ per transaction.
    Hopefully the market is moving toward micro-payments which will allow newspapers to charge for content in different ways depending on what is accessed.

  3. Newspapers made another mistake by offering RSS feeds free.
    My RSS reader (Google) strips out all the graphics. The downside is that takes away photos.
    Is there a way to charge for everything but the ads?
    (Yes)

  4. Problogger writes about donations for blogs.
    http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/05/31/donations-on-blogs-do-they-work/
    Probably won’t work on big corporate media sites, unless the ads are stripped (as he mentions.) So the choice might be with ads or make a donation.
    Might work for a community weekly or alternative weekly.
    You would also think that with their specialized content BizJournals.com http://losangeles.bizjournals.com/losangeles/
    might adopt a ppv. But they don’t seem to be leaning that direction.
    Can you elaborate on your comment about classifieds?

  5. @Mark:

    1 – I don’t believe micropayments will ever work for news. Copy/paste kills that as a viable business model.

    2 – RSS feeds should definitely be free, although I don’t have much of a problem with newspapers putting out partial feeds that entice readers to click through to read the full story. It’s not ideal, but it gets people to the doorstep of your content.

    3 – I think you’re right about the “Pay to skip the ads” model – for small community papers and maybe alt-weeklies, but really, aren’t the users who have the money to pay the fee the users your advertisers want to reach?

    4 – Classifieds have built-in upsells – in lots of systems they’re already “freemium.” For free, you get text. Maybe for five bucks, you get a photo added to that. Maybe for 15 you get to add a video.

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