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If information is worth something, pay for it

At we are trying something new. We are running a test of selling digital news reports by the copy. We have set a low price per copy and made our first report available at our online store. Like the character in the Futurama TV show who always says “Good news, everyone” before sending the crew on another suicidal mission, we are taking a sunny view on the face of horrible odds.

We believe that people will pay for certain news on the Internet. Most of the news industry disagrees and we are hoping to prove them wrong. Our core tenet is: the value of information is inversely proportional to the number of people who have the information. For example, the fewer the people who know where to dig for gold, the more valuable that piece of information is: if you are the only who knows it, then its value is huge. Our business is creating valuable information from scratch.  

The hardest thing in our model is to split news from advertising. For newspapers, low traffic is “bad news”: for two hundred years, they got paid on the number of readers. That business model is now in crumbles. But that is only true if you are selling advertising. If you are buying advertising, you want the least possible reach that will maximize your sales: more bang for the buck. That is what Google and Facebook are offering advertisers to lure them away from news media. For example, instead of buying an ad that will reach 100,000 people hoping to reach the two thousand potential customers willing to buy your gold watches, you can now buy an advertisement in Instagram to target people who have shown an interest in gold jewelry and walk near your store every day.

In our model, we are no longer sellers of advertising but customers of advertising. We are using the same technology that is wreaking havoc on the news industry, very accurate and affordable online segmentation, to find the customers willing to pay for the information we are creating. Google and Facebook dominate the advertising industry but have had a hard time telling the truth from lies. In their model, it may be impossible.

Yet their audience segmentation is a valuable aid to sell our reports. And we at can separate the wheat from the chaff. The news industry has time-tested methods to approach the truth. We have adopted the toolbox of classic journalism to do it. That’s why we have created a newsroom modelled after the newspaper ones. In other words, we use Google and Facebook to sell our editorial products. We are not their partners, nor beneficiaries, but customers. The famous business principle applies: the customer is always right.