What are people willing to pay for?

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People expect news to be free online. Why? Because its free on tv right? Sort of–if you pay for cable or DirecTV its not exactly free. Print newspapers aren’t free. People feel the same about television shows. And search is free. And you can store lots of your photos for free. You can blog for free. You can find a date for free. You can even find all of your friends for free.

So what are people willing to pay for online? What if Google had a special search that knew who you were sort of like Netflix or Amazon? Would you pay so that you don’t get spammed by all the bad websites that end up on Google? Google has already worked out some nice intelligence about you. I typed in my son’s school district to get a map to his school a few days ago. A few days later when I needed a bus route, and started typing just a few of the letters, Google guessed what I was going to type because it knew something about me. Quite a nice little luxury. But would you pay for it if it was even more in-tune with your needs?

What if a news company gathered news for you? What if you lived in a town and the local news had some reporters who only cared about your town? What if they tailored news to your school, your neighborhood and perhaps your favorite sports teams, even if they didn’t play in their city? Well, some people do that now with iGoogle by pulling in RSS feeds of things they are interested in. But what if you could ask the newspaper or local television station to answer a question for you? Or ask a question of the Mayor or Governor and they delievered the answer to you? What if they actually investigated something you wanted? Would you pay for it? Would you pay for your own personal media company?

I’m not sure there is ever enough money, time or ability to do such things. I’m not trying to suggest an answer as much as understand what comes next for news. It’s a business that is vital to our country and yet its struggling mightily. Somewhere along the way the paradigm must change.

At some point an innovation will come along and reinvent the way the world puts out the news. Or perhaps we are in the midst of that already. Perhaps you are the news. You and your friends that is. The news we want is based on relevant Facebook and Twitter streams, blogs and more which is smartly culled from every corner of the world brought to our computer. I want to know what someone on my street blogged about without knowing they blogged about it. I want to know that a city council meeting is happening without thinking about it. I want to know that the main road in my city is closed because of an accident without trying to think that I might need to know. I want to know what is happening before I realize I need to know. That is news. News should be so convenient that we never realize that its news. We just thinking to ourselves–“how did I live without that?” But would you pay for it?

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