Journalism: can pay, won’t pay?

Here’s a thing. If the sites you regularly visited started charging, would you stick with them?

I’ve been mulling over some stuff Rupert Murdoch has been saying. Essentially he’s arguing that the free, ad-supported content model for online news and magazines isn’t sustainable, which I think is right – The Guardian website is brilliant, but the Guardian business is pissing money – and that the future is going to come with a price tag.

Will it work?

I’m trying to imagine how you’d charge for online content. Straight news, presumably, would remain free – it’s not particularly unique – and everything else would be behind some kind of pay wall. Would it work? Would you flinch if, when you went to read a Charlie Brooker column, you had to pay 1p, or if Media Guardian was completely off-limits to non-subscribers? If Techradar made all its news free but its features, reviews and columns subscribers-only, would you stump up? If Q asked for 10p for its exclusive, in-depth interview with [insert your favourite pop star here] would you stump up the cash?

I’m not sure I would – not on a computer screen, anyway. I’ve written before about my truly terrifying newspaper and magazine bills, and I’m quite sure that I’d pay a sub for e-paper versions (provided the e-paper was good enough, like the new big Kindle for newspapers or a lighter, full colour version for mags). But I don’t think I’ve ever paid to read an article online. I tend to balk at registration, let alone payment. A bundle – pay for the print version, get free access to extra stuff online – might work, but online-only… I’m not convinced.

What about you? Can you imagine a way in which paying for content – with the exception of stuff that businesses will put on expenses, such as Concrete Today or whatever – could actually work?