Paying the price

Posted on May 21, 2007 
Filed Under Uncategorized

Vin Crosbie describes how the “unpackaging” of news online will further erode print subscriptions and revenues, despite attempts to charge for online content:

What’s radically changed during the past dozen years is the balance of the supply and demand equation. It’s shifted from scarcity to surplus for consumers… Today, that consumer has online access to every newspaper and news magazine in the world. This access means that getting a printed edition of his local daily is no longer as valuable to him as it had been. So, printed edition circulations decline. And it should be no mystery that the declines have accelerated into multiple percentages annually now that most American consumers have broadband (‘always on’) access…most newspaper publishers continue to operate oblivious to these changes, as if their product is still a scarce commodity and as valuable as it was a dozen or decades of years ago.

Currently, 35 of the 1,452 U.S. daily newspapers charge for access to either all or a portion of their online content. Only three of the 35 have more than 100,000 weekday circulation: The Wall Street Journal (WSJ.com has 761,000 subscribers), The New York Times (TimesSelect has 713,000 subscribers, only one-third of whom pay) and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette…

No means of charging online for any slice or dice of the traditional printed newspaper content will work. The solution is to discern why the readership of printed editions has decline for more than 30 years and formulate what other type or package of content that will create demand from them online and in print. Because those declines have been occuring far longer than consumers have had online access, the cause must be reasons other than just the change in supply & demand equation that consumers’ online access caused.

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