Can newspapers leverage print to gain money from online readers?


readers_small.jpgADOTAS — Possibly, according to a Paid Content/Harris Poll.

While most people hate the idea of paying for online content, and most media companies saying someone needs to pay for it, there may some middle ground. According to paid content, only five percent of people who read a news site at least once a month said they would pay for online access. But if a free or discounted subscription was added to any pay plan to the printed paper that rises to a combined 48 percent.



  1. One aspect of the problem with or without the Paid Content survey results is that the print version of newspapers is an old content form (or package) that newspaper publishers apparently want to pour into a new technology.

    It isn’t even this or that technology per se, as if technology was either the answer or the culprit. The technology argument alone, with or without the content explanation, where the latter is another aspect of the problem, are simplistic.

    What has happened to newspapering is a structural transformation of a deeper kind that newspapers (at their peril) apparently have not yet fully confronted.

    The structural aspect of the problem can be seen within the deeper dependency relationship between advertising, news packaging and the consequent packaging of audiences that are intended to inform advertising strategies predicated on the availability of mass audiences.

    Therefore, all three variables have to be looked at together, as the NEWSNAV ™ analysis pointed out in its presentation to the 1200 or so member newspapers of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA).

    The NewsNav argument amounted to this: all three issues have to be examined contemporaneously in terms of what it is or was about the convergence of new technologies with new content forms and consequent new expectations from audiences of one person at a time, and where all the above have had a demonstrative impact on advertising which makes news propagation as a business possible in the first place.

    A structural analysis does not think of news as something that might go away. The news won’t disappear. Nor will news as something printed on newsprint become extinct. New media always accommodates and incorporates older content forms.

    The problem for newspapers as an industry per se stems from what happens when technology is coupled with new content forms which are then in their effect “massaged” or worked over by new technologies which then have an impact on audience apprehensions of what’s news in the first place and whether whatever it is, it’s also worth paying for.

    People nowadays will not, generally speaking, voluntarily pay for news. The ultimate question is why is that the case?

    No single survey, regardless of source, accounts for the transformative effects that account for WHY newspapering as a commodified enterprise that has become infinitely replicable on the public Internet might no longer have a viable business model, at least not if newspapers persist in packaging news and audiences for advertisers as if nothing has changed.

    Until and unless that deep structural transformation is squarely confronted by newspapers in terms of new content forms, and not simply incremental iterations of the old way of packaging news and audiences for advertisers, then newspapers should anticipate their possible demise as a viable business method for news diffusion.

  2. Many of the market comparisons are shallow attempts at understanding *how* people use information today.

    Newspapers are a unique proposition and haven’t focused on GROWING SUBSCRIPTION, HYPER-LOCAL COVERAGE & LARGE-SCALE INFOGRAPHICS for a very long time.

    For lack of better example… consider the film industry. There are multiple options for consuming a movie with varying degrees of EXPERIENCE… from the most expensive: IMAX 3-D, down to network tv with commercials.

    With a STELLAR product, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.



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