How I Want My Online News

If no one wants my money, then I'll keep them.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

I know how I want my online news served.

I love news, and I love journ­al­ism. And I’d love to pay more for online news. Journalists deserve to make a living.

However, it’s not up to me to serve online news on a plat­form where I wouldn’t mind pay­ing for news.

Let me show you what I mean:

If I’m Donating My Attention

When it comes to pay­ing for donat­ing my atten­tion, I do have spe­cif­ic stand­ards. I will pay for online news — if I get some­thing in return. 

If a news plat­form expects me to hand over my money and atten­tion in exchange for a sub-par exper­i­ence, they must revis­it their strategy.

The news organ­isa­tion pro­duces news, and they get my atten­tion to mon­et­ise. This is not fair; atten­tion is per­haps the most valu­able com­mod­ity today. Therefore, I’m dis­ap­poin­ted when news out­lets try to charge me twice.

They can charge me. Or they can show me ads. Never both.

Online News - Paywalls - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
A new paradigm for online news.

News Behind Paywalls

A pay­wall is a way for online news plat­forms to stop me from donat­ing my atten­tion, which is fine, but there is no short­age of altern­at­ive news sources for con­sumers today.

So, if a news out­let wants to take my money, I will not want to see any ads. But it doesn’t stop there, unfortunately.

My stand­ards make it vir­tu­ally impossible to find a rel­ev­ant news out­let will­ing to deliv­er news to me in a fash­ion that will cater to my spe­cif­ic needs. Am I simply unreasonable? 

I’ll let you be the judge.

My Requirements for Online News

To pay for a news site mem­ber­ship, these are my requirements:

  • Multichannel eco­sys­tem. I want my news delivered through an eco­sys­tem where the web­site, the app, and the API are per­fectly in sync. Any changes I make to the app should be reflec­ted pre­cisely and instantly across all platforms.
  • Open shar­ing for mem­bers. I don’t mind pay­walls as long as I, as a pay­ing mem­ber of the com­munity, can share every news item at no addi­tion­al cost — while allow­ing my fol­low­ers to click and con­sume what I share without pay­ing or regis­ter­ing. It’s free mar­ket­ing for the platform!
  • Advanced cus­tom­isa­tion options. I don’t want the news plat­form to try to guess what interests me. Instead, I prefer full cus­tom­isa­tion all across the board. Ranking factors, cat­egor­ies, series, tags, noti­fic­a­tion beha­viours, a per­cent­age mix of top­ics, keywords, geo­loca­tion, weath­er etc. Don’t worry; I can handle it.
  • Quality-assured syn­dic­a­tion. On any giv­en day, there must be enough news stor­ies that are rel­ev­ant to me. However, it would be impossible for one news organ­isa­tion to cov­er both loc­al and inter­na­tion­al stor­ies and gen­er­al and spe­cial interest stor­ies. Therefore, I don’t mind if the news plat­form is a gate­keep­er for syn­dic­ated news con­tent. I only care about the facts being accurate.
  • (Super)user-generated con­tent. I want to be able to add my com­ments to sep­ar­ate news items. (Remember Google Reader?) And it should be easy for my fol­low­ers on and off the plat­form to sub­scribe to my com­ment feed without pay­ing or regis­ter­ing. It’s free mar­ket­ing for the platform!
  • Member com­ment­ary. I don’t want to see anonym­ous com­ments or com­ments from non-pay­ing news con­sumers. But I do require com­ments from people who (like me) are pay­ing mem­bers — and I want to see those com­ments intern­ally ranked through paid mem­ber upvotes per user, not per article.
  • Member pro­file con­nectiv­ity. Suppose I devel­op a per­son­al trust and appre­ci­ation for cer­tain value-adding com­menters. In that case, I want their input in a prime pos­i­tion adja­cent to the news item. Commenters above a par­tic­u­lar approv­al score from the com­munity should also be allowed to add extern­al links in their comments.
  • Vertical-related con­tent. If I read a news story about a forest fire, as a pay­ing mem­ber, I want to see links to every oth­er news story going back at least 20 years. Context is what I con­sider to be real value.
  • External link­ing. Journalists should be encour­aged to add extern­al links to their reports so news con­sumers can quickly val­id­ate their facts. These out­bound links should be vis­ible (and con­sidered an included ser­vice) to the pay­ing community.
  • Advanced data­base search. As a pay­ing mem­ber of the news com­munity, I require power­ful search cap­ab­il­it­ies. I want to do keyword searches and get com­plete and com­pre­hens­ive search res­ults. This is an essen­tial part of every­day news con­sump­tion and argu­ably the best way to inform oneself.
  • Fewer URLs. Every news item should have one URL. If the story expands over time, the URL should be updated; I don’t want new URLs for each con­sec­ut­ive event. I would also like report­ers to upload raw foot­age and audio files in case I’d like to dig deep­er into the news story.
  • Referral loop. If I refer a new pay­ing cus­tom­er to the news plat­form, I want a tem­por­ary (but gen­er­ous!) deduc­tion of my monthly sub­scrip­tion fee. Dropbox should serve as an inspir­a­tion for the refer­ral loop.
  • Data min­ing and pri­vacy. I want the news plat­form to col­lect and use my data to keep my sub­scrip­tion fee reas­on­able by selling con­sumer data ana­lys­is to com­pan­ies and organ­isa­tions. Just keep my con­tact details private to pro­tect me from spam.
  • No advert­ising for pay­ing mem­bers. The news plat­form must choose; either charge me a sub­scrip­tion fee or expose me to advert­ising. I will nev­er be okay with both.
  • Factual accur­acy over speed. The news plat­form should pri­or­it­ise wisely. I will hap­pily sac­ri­fice report­ing rate and in-depth ana­lys­is if I get the bare facts. Factual accur­acy is much more valu­able than hasty half-truths and talk­ing heads gasp­ing for airtime.
  • Professional UIX. Apart from being easy to use, the user inter­face should also be aes­thet­ic­ally pleas­ing. If it’s relaxed or cor­por­ate doesn’t mat­ter, but refrain from mak­ing it cute or corny. News is ser­i­ous busi­ness and should be con­veyed as such.

Now, I don’t think I’m being unreas­on­able.
Or am I?

There has to be a plaus­ible explan­a­tion as to why there’s not a single news out­let ready to take my money in exchange for the ser­vice I want. 

Perhaps news pub­lish­ers haven’t under­stood the power of earn­ing a sol­id base of co-cre­at­ing superusers.


Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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