On Friday, I received an email from the New York Times telling me, that as a subscriber, I now have the option to get my news on my phone or iPad and that they’re going to begin charging for that news.

My first reaction was, “GOOD! We all deserve to make money on our content and this should help us begin to find ways to charge.”

I’ve always believed that service providers are more willing to pay other service providers than someone who makes widgets for a living. So if I read your content and you’re now going to charge me, I’m cool with that.

I included a story about the pros and cons of the NY Times charging in last week’s Gin and Topics.

And that opened the can of worms.

John Falchetto, one of my very favorite people, debated me on why The Huffington Post seems to have gotten it right without charging, but the NY Times can’t. Then, over dinner, Mr. D told me his biggest problem with it is he can go to a blog and read the content there.

That’s right. The bloggers’ content is still free and, if they link to a story behind the paywall, you’ll still be able to access it.

So what’s the point?

The point is that the paper isn’t making any money and they’re losing advertisers. They have to figure out how to make payroll and maybe even make some money.

Yes, HuffPo figured it out and made their money on advertising because they have so many readers. It’ll be interesting to watch and see if they continue that business model under AOL or if advertisers begin to flock to the shiny new penny.

And maybe the NY Times can learn a thing or two from them. But if you can still access their content for free, they’re missing the point.

Free Is Boring

Enter a guest post yesterday by Thom Chambers on SocialMouths called “Free Is Boring: Why You Need to Change How You Give Stuff Away.”

It’s a good read that begins with the introduction of Wikipedia and the birth of free content. If you haven’t read it, I recommend heading over there next. It’s good.

I agree with the premise of his blog post, but I don’t totally agree with his thoughts that making your blog remarkable will allow you to begin charging. He says stories, editing, and evolving will help you make your blog remarkable. And, by doing those things, you’ll be able to make money.

Yes, your content needs to be remarkable. But being remarkable isn’t enough.

Charging for Content

Let’s assume your content is remarkable and you’ve followed the advice of Thom (which you should do, even if you have no plans to make money from it). What are the real tricks to making money from your intellectual property?

  1. What is your end goal? When I started taking this blog seriously in June 2009, the goals were to figure out if a blog could create thought leadership (yes) and if it would drive business to Arment Dietrich (yes). Then we used it to see if people will pay for certain things (yes) and how much they’ll pay (depends on what it is). Now the goal is to build customers for Project Jack Bauer. Whether or not that works is yet to be seen, but if our past indicates anything, the answer is a resounding yes.
  2. Where do people want to consume your content? It might not be on a blog on the web. Is it on a tablet? It it through an app on their smartphone? Have you asked? This question is different than where they consume it now.
  3. What’s coming next? Are you thinking about what’s coming next? For instance, we know the big shift to elearning and professional development, in the next 24-30 months, is going to be on a tablet. So, while it won’t be our main launching point in May, we are moving very quickly to a totally customized and interactive experience for the tablet.
  4. Where can you learn lessons? We pay very close attention to what’s happening in the music industry. It’s the same…and it’s different. How many of you have downloaded music for free? How many of you haven’t felt guilty about it? You’re taking something away from the artist, no matter how you feel about how much money they already make or your opinion on whether or not it’s enough for them. How would you feel if you were in their shoes? Pay attention to industries that have already gone through what you’re experiencing and learn from it.

There isn’t a magic answer for charging for your content because it depends on what it is and whether or not people find it remarkable. But if you have strong and unwavering answers to the four questions above, you’ll begin to find ways to make money on your IP.

What do you think?

* Thanks to Media Futurist for the cartoon

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich