When mentioning the fee collection for e-versions of newspapers, Le Quoc Minh, Editor in Chief of Vietnam Plus, the online newspaper belonging to the Vietnam News Agency, said he may face the strong opposition from readers and colleagues when making such a suggestion. However, Minh believes that this is a necessary thing publishers need to do to improve the news quality and develop.

Until the first half of 2000s, the world was still in two minds about charging fees for online news. At that time, experts warned that if press agencies collected fees, they would lose readers.

The US Wall Street Journal began collecting fees in 1997. It was estimated that by mid 2007, one million people had accepted to pay money to read the e-version of the newspaper.

In September 2005, New York Times also began charging service fees. However, it later canceled the service in September 2007, after realizing that the fees collected were not big enough to offset the decreases in the revenue from potential ads it could have had with the free websites.

The British--The Times began collecting fee in 2010, though this was a general news website, with no in-depth analyses. One month later, The Times had 105,000 payers for news, but it lost 4 million readers a month.

However, newswires have still been insisting on the necessity to collect fees from readers.

New York Times, for example, has charged fees again since March 2011, but it has applied some new policies. Until April 2012, readers were allowed to read 20 pieces of news every month before they had to pay fees. Since April 2012, the number of free pieces of news has reduced to 10.

Statistics showed that 224,000 readers accepted to pay fees in the first three months. To date, the newspaper has got 470,000 subscribers who have to pay 15-35 dollars a month for reading the e-version of the newspaper.

Charging fees in Vietnam, why not ?

It is obviously a growing tendency in the world that people have to pay for online news service. However, it is still unclear when the tendency would be growing in Vietnam.

Analysts say this would depend on many factors, including the demand, the content quality and the affordability of readers.

No online newspaper has officially charged fees for online news in Vietnam. However, some newspapers have been just starting the plans to collect fees.

Baomoi.com, for example, has begun collecting fees for the “hot news” of the mobile version, charging 5000 dong per piece of news, even though these are not the news produced by Baomoi.com itself.

According to Minh, e-newspapers have been mushrooming. However, the newspapers cannot earn much from advertisements. He believes that the ad revenue growth rate is no more than 30-40 percent per annum. Meanwhile, no more than five e-newspapers can earn 1 million dollars a year from ads.

In general, enterprises would post ad pieces on big and well known newspapers, even though they have to pay high for the posting. As such, smaller newspapers have to earn their living by selling contents and have loyal readers.

Minh believes that charging fees for online news would be feasible, if readers can receive valuable news. He said readers would be ready to pay for services, provided that the services can satisfy them.

By Binh Minh - VietNamNet Bridge - December 13, 2012