How I Want My Online News

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

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Instagram)

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, then they need to revisit their strategy.

The news organisation produce news, and in return, they get my attention to monetise. This is not a fair deal; 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 to choose from 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 with each other. 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 having to pay or register. It’s free marketing for the platform!
  • Advanced customisation options — I don’t want the news platform to try and guess what I might be interested in. 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 acts as a gatekeeper for syndicated news content. I only care about the facts being accurate.
  • Superuser-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 to see 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 — If I develop a personal trust and appreciation for certain value-adding commenters, I want to be able to see 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 modern 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 for 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 at a reasonable level 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 to me 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 are 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.

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
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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