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The Digital Skeptic: Mongolia Is a Better Media Customer Than U.S.

"U.S. budgets are on a third-world level," Wurfl says. "This is not an insult from me. I can tell you as a fact, Mongolia and Vietnam now pay more than many U.S. media outlets."

Wurfl believes the U.S. media market has become a universe unto itself where people work for almost nothing. And clients know it. He is not talking just about blogs, indie creators or new-media wannabes. Significant fashion publications, good-sized digital news outlets and even regional and national publications simply refuse to pay anything close to global scale for content.

"There is usually some back and forth with American editors," Wurfl says. "But when the subject of price comes up, they simply disappear."

Wurfl claims he is not demanding Tiffany retail prices. Basic interviews can run for as low as $100, though they can go as high as roughly $3,000. But even the low end, he says, is more than many U.S. outlets are willing to pay.

"They expect journalistic quality for $40 a story," he says. "It is hard to get a foot on the ground in a market like that."

Spotify no exception to the rule
Wurfl's world view, then, is a crucial investor reminder on the perils Spotify faces. He is certain basic items -- including news -- are essentially valueless commodities in the digital age. About the only place he finds customers willing paying is in commentary, analysis and access to high-profile newsmakers.

That means anybody peddling anything anybody can get -- including music -- faces as tough a road to profits as possible.

"Good quality content will always survive," he says. "But talent alone is probably not enough. You have to sell your stuff these days."

Until Spotify faces the music -- and finds something unique to sell besides music -- it will find itself in one tough spot.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.
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