Forget Charging For News. It’s The Packaging That Counts

Every day it seems like we hear a new savior of journalism expounding their ideas on in what way newspapers are going to start charging for online content and making money. Well, here’s an idea that might actually work: Mark Potts, “recovering journalist,” has come up with a new way to save news organizations, and it’s not “iTunes for newspapers” nor indiscriminate pay walls nor micropayments.
Nobody’s ever bought news by the story,” he writes. What do they buy? Find out after the jump.

“What people do buy are packages of news, often supported by other, non-news content. Journalists don’t always like to think about this, but the reasons for subscribing to a newspaper often are as much about the comics, the crosswords and the ads as they are about the news itself. That’s what people plunk down their quarters for: the package, not the story. News collected in a convenient, easy-to-use form that adds value.”
What if, he says, we could charge for an equivalent package online? This doesn’t exactly mean that newspapers should start including crossword puzzles and coupons behind their paywalls.
“It may take the form of highly targeted, finely crafted packages of news in which readers can find value in the whole rather than the sum of the parts.”
Curation isn’t anything new, but as the blogosphere/Twitterverse/Tumblrland expands, there’s going to be that much more noise to sort from signal. And careful, clever curation is definitely worth something. Example? Romenesko, who “produces essentially zero original content on his page. He just digests the best media stories of the days and provides links to them. (Funny, nobody in the media ever seems to refer to Romenesko as a parasite, a la Google or Drudge.) That’s the service he provides, and it’s got value: Romenesko is a quick read on what’s happening in the industry.”
If you’d pay $5 a month for access to Romenesko, why not $5 or $10 for carefully edited news? A mix of original reporting (subsidized by part of your subscription) and content that expands upon, enhances, or otherwise complements that original content. Hmm. It could work.
We also would like to go further and point out that the method of delivery could count as a package. Want the news online? Free. Want it delivered to your door? That’s extra. Want it on your iPhone? $5 a month. Why not? It could work.