If you’re trying to get a handle on just what the options are for traditional media companies like yours in a new media world, check out this article. The options briefly outlined by the article are these: (1) Erect a paywall. (2) Put up a semi-permeable paywall (a fraction of articles are free to encourage readers to become paying customers). (3) Implement a metered system, where readers can read a certain number of articles a day and then must pay for further access. (4) Remain free – to try to get more readers and thereby create a site where advertisers will want to appear. (5) Create a better value for advertisers – in effect, turning the newspaper’s advertising department into a miniature advertising agency that offers creative advertising solutions. This article summarizes the various options out there right now, and it will help you think more concretely about what your online future may hold.
What reader wouldn’t love this? Marlene Skowran’s blog at PoynterOnline shares an idea we should all look at. The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., publishes “topic pages” that aggregate years of news stories. Check this out – no matter what your interest, from local history to sports, you can review lots of news stories with one click of the mouse.
The Daily Tribune in River Cities is going online-only except for its Sunday paper. The Tribune published five times a week before the transition. The paper cited shrinking ad revenue and high newsprint costs for the change.
Gone are the days when Americans got their news from only a few sources – maybe TV, a big-city paper nearby, and a community newspaper if they lived in a smaller town. The latest Pew survey, Understanding the Participatory News Consumer, shows that only 7 percent of Americans get their news from a single media platform on a typical day. Some 46 percent get their news from four to six platforms a day. The Internet keeps gaining as a news source – it is now the third most popular news platform, behind local TV news and national TV news. Where are newspapers in the American news diet? 78 percent get news from local TV, 73 percent from a national network or cable network; 61 percent online; 54 percent from radio at home or in the car, and 50 percent from a local newspaper. You can get a digest of findings at the Web site above and download a pdf of the entire survey at that site, too.
This isn’t a quick read, but it’s one you should probably make time for. It’s a scholarly study by Scott Maier in the j-school at Oregon, and it compares the content of five prominent Web news sites to a cross-section of U.S. daily newspapers. Here’s a sample of the results from Maier’s conclusions: “In a time of turmoil for the press, this study’s findings offer a refreshingly positive perspective for newspapers—at least from the standpoint of content. Clearly, newspapers provide a product that offers depth and breadth unmatched by their online competition. This is a selling point that has not been made strongly enough by the press. With most major stories authored by named staff, newspapers also boast a high degree of story ownership and transpar¬ency—attributes largely missing from some of the nation’s most prominent online services. In sum, newspapers have good reason to boast that they offer in-depth, independent news unrivaled even in the digital age. The findings also underscore some of the strengths of online news. Read¬ers who now get their news on the computer rather than at their doorstep are not likely to miss out on the big stories of the day. The study showed that both newspapers and online news services shared similar news judgments regarding news topics and story prominence. But reflecting the Internet’s international audience, readers online are likely to get a broader picture of what’s happening around the world than do those who exclusively read newspapers, as well as a slightly heavier dose of analysis and opinion.”
Here’s a startup to watch: it’s called Patch, and it’s a company that goes into towns without a community newspaper or where the paper is struggling and starts a hyperlocal Web site. Patch is exclusively advertising-supported. Advertisers can either buy the traditional ad or get an ad where they pay by page views — $15 per thousand at this point. Check out this Forbes article – Patch and other similar ventures are showing some success, and we predict that it won’t be long before more start popping up in Texas.
Steve Outing’s Nov. 30 “Stop the Presses” column in E&P focuses on community newspapers and their struggles to define the role of their online editions. Specifically, whether or not to erect pay walls. Outing tells about some smaller newspapers who come down on each side of the debate and fairly summarizes pros and cons. If you’re looking to make sure you consider all your options before you make a final decision on putting online content behind a pay wall, be sure to read this column. And especially, read through to the end and look at his section on the four negative consequences to your paper of putting most content behind the wall. There’s so much discussion out there on this issue right now, but Outing summarizes the issues fairly, so take time to look at this one.
Brian Steffens of the NNA has a blogpost every editor and publisher in Texas needs to read. It’s about what readers really want, and are willing to pay for — and it’s not necessarily just our content.
To whet your appetite, here’s a sample:
“How convenient are our papers for our readers? Is the type large enough for easy reading, or have we shrunk the text size, crammed the letterspacing and reduced the leading/line spacing to get the same amount of news in fewer pages (pages that may now be harder to read, negating the “benefit” of fitting all the news into fewer pages)? How readable are those classifieds or public notices?
“How convenient are our papers for our advertisers? Is the rate card easy to read and understand, or deadly dull full of ratios and formulas and grids that only your sales reps can read and interpret? Is it simple and easy for a reader to place a classified ad, when they think of it, whether it’s during business hours or in the evening after their work shift and they have time to think about selling off something in the garage or basement?
“While we agonize over our content and how to charge for it, let’s not forget a simple marketing maxim: a great way to differentiate your product or service from the next one is to make it easy on the customer. If two providers offer a similar product or service, they’ll pick the one that’s easiest to use.”
Newspaper people like to think they have their fingers on the pulse of readers. They like to think they have an idea of what readers think, what they want, what they believe they need. A new survey shows, however, that news execs far overestimate their readers’ perceived needs for the news they’re producing – in any format. For example, both groups were asked what readers would do if their local newspaper Web site went away. Would they turn to the print product to get news? An overwhelming 75 percent of news execs said if their Web site went away, readers would pick up the print edition. But only 30 percent of readers said they would – 68 percent said they’d go to other Web sites, 45 percent would turn to TV. This is one of those surveys that anyone in news should read.
Steve Yelvington has posted some easy practical advice on how to build a healthy community around your online news product. He gives advice on both how to change your Web site and how to change your newsroom mentality.