Is ‘Free’ The Right Price for News?

Tad Smith, the CEO of Reed Business, home to dozens of publications including Variety, Broadcast and Cable, and Multichannel News last week on CNBC questioned the idea that “free” is the best price for media. “Price communicates a lot of value, and when it’s free, it really says it’s not worth anything,” he said, also noting that we’re conditioned to believe, “you get what you pay for.”

In another part of the show, not in this linked video, he said that Reed is considering charging for its publications that are currently free online.

What do you think? Can ads, alone, support a news operation? What are the other means to doing so — subscription, e-commerce, events, and so on. Should you charge — especially if your site is for a limited audience defined either by geography or subject? How can you figure it out before taking the first steps?

We’re helping the Reynolds Journalism Institute come up with pointers. Share your thoughts here. The RJI’s ‘Collaboratory’ Business Assessment group is coming up with pointers.

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