Yesterday I posed the question via Twitter ( @bradthomas ) “would you pay to read your local paper online? be honest. if so, how much?“. Since I’ve also got my twitter account linked with my facebook profile, that question was also broadcast there as well.

Several of my friends, many of who have or still work for newspaper companies have weighed in:

“Nope, not at all. Free content is everywhere in the world, why would I pay for news I can find elsewhere?”

“hell no”

“no becasue you can read free stuff online anywhere, why pay”

“That’s a big negatory there compadre’.”

Brad Thomas: What if it were local content that nobody else currently covered?

“shoot, i can get that right here on FB for free”

“That’s the thing. For people to pay, it must be something they can’t get anywhere else. I think this will only work in certain communities, however. Take Fort Mill, for example. There are 40,000 people (mostly affluent) who live in the township and, despite there being three newspapers that “cover” them — The Observer, The Herald and the Fort Mill Times — none of them provide daily coverage unless something big happens. I think this would be a great place to experiment with a pay-only model. And I think it would work.”

“police here in winston shot a bear not 3 miles from my house and i found out about it on FB before any of the media reported it online….it would have to be hyper-local, community interest content, but i agree that it’s possible”

Brad Thomas: I think the only way I would advocate paying for local content would be if it was expert analysis or some in-depth investigative reporting. Perhaps exclusive, time sensitive content nobody else has. And even then, I wouldn’t pay more than a couple bucks a month tops.

“I agree. There are so many magazines now generating decent content from a community human interest level. Some are putting complete articles online. Anything’s possible, but…sure would be tough to pull off, I think.”

Brad Thomas: So, what we’re saying is — we’d pay for certain kinds of content — but for all intensive purposes, no, we wouldn’t pay for the content found in a daily newspaper. Right?

Brad Thomas: I’m being honest, there is currently no daily newspaper in North or South Carolina that I would pay to read online.

“I will never pay to read a newspaper online…”

“That’s the way to go. It’s inevitable. It doesn’t make any sense to give away free news. People will have to pay to read news in the near future.”

“It’s too late. There are too many places where people can get their news online for free. The TV stations are taking over in terms of traffic and there’s no way they’d ever try to charge for content.”

“Charging for news is committing suicide for anyone who tries it.”

“You pay for the paper, you pay for food, you pay for gas, why shouldn’t you pay for online news? Reporters work hard to get you those stories. Shouldn’t they get paid for their effort.

Many newspapers already charge for online content in Europe and it works great because people are willing to pay if the content of a story is interesting. It’s gotta be local and it’s gotta be exclusive. But charging for online content is the future whether people like it or not.”

” …except there are PLENTY of folks willing to do the work in getting the news to you for free. It would have to be something magical, unique and in high demand for anyone to be able to charge for it. I just don’t see anyone doing that. It would take an amazing group of folks and an amazing amount of resources to pull it off.”

What do you think? Would you pay to read your local paper — as it stands today — online?

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