i Editor's Letter: What price are we willing to pay?


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The Independent Online


Out of the mouths of babes… I was talking to some teenagers about paying for content in the digital world, and its importance if journalists, musicians and film-makers are to continue to be able to make a living. I know, I know – fun times in the Hatfield household.

As we discussed their professed disdain for paying for anything in a world where you can, if you are tech-savvy enough (and every teen is), watch, read and listen to everything online for nothing, they inadvertently revealed the secret.

Teens will happily pay for Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Spotify – or at least persuade parents to pay for them. All have the one thing they desire without being able to articulate it: unique, or ostensibly unique, content. They also – and this matters – will only pay for things that work simply, and consistently so. Buying “stuff via the Apple store is so easy you can almost not realise you are doing it”. Which is part of Apple’s evil genius. That, and the fact teens are often spending someone else’s money – ie their parents’.

Newspapers, other than the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal, have long since abandoned attempts to charge people for news online – such is the ubiquity of the free model of the BBC or Mail Online. Hence the importance of genuinely unique, but expensive to buy, content like Premier League goals, coming soon to a mobile near you via thesun.co.uk.

What else is there? Opinion, I suggested, would you pay for opinion? Dear reader, the disdain! I was fixed with the most withering yet pitying of stares: “Opinion? Why ON EARTH would anyone pay for someone else’s opinion, when you can have your own?”

And that was that: QED! The earphones went back in, and I slunk away, back to my drawing board.