News As Premium Cable

Cable television started as a way to get various broadcast stations into homes that could not receive the signal over the air. Premium cable expanded on that and has long been a way for cable providers to generate additional revenue by offering subscription access to channels that are not normally available on these broadcast stations. In order to do this legally, the cable operator agrees to a licensing deal with each of the channels it is offering to customers. Because of this, a customer can decide what to watch and when to watch it.

There’s obviously more to it, but that’s a basic structure.

Right now, news organizations around the world are trying to determine the best way to monetize their content. Some are okay with a model supported by advertisements. Others are putting up paywalls to ensure that only revenue generating customers are accessing content. It’s still very much a wide open world and nobody can really agree on the best method.

In the meantime, for the consumer, it is a hassle to remember which sites have paywalls, which sites only require a basic login and which sites are wide open. The online world is full of links that may lead to wonderful content, but are all of a sudden blocked by a service you may not have signed up for yet.

Then what do you do? Make the quick decision to sign up right now because you really want to read this one article? Maybe weigh out the possibilities – will I read enough material from this organization this month to make it worth my while? Or just give up and move on in the world of ever quickening rivers, ignoring the content and adding another organization to your ‘could be hard to read’ list.

It seems an opportunity exists. That the right enterprising person could come along and create the premium cable of news. One pass via one monthly fee to have access to any article in any of these news organizations with a browser extension or a universal authentication that allows consumers to view hassle free content all of the time.

All of the negotiating over licensing and payment can be done by people who like to do those things.

All of the reading and absorbing of content can be done by everyone else.

As I started to write this, I realized that Facebook has recently introduced a version of this concept via the Washington Post and Guardian UK Facebook applications. Nobody’s paying yet, but the access to content is easy and free. This is like basic cable to the example laid out above.