The Media Hammer

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A fight in the newsroom at the Washington Post!  I’m not above enjoying other people doing dumb things, I’m not sure anyone is.  How else do you explain TMZ being as popular as it is, right?

What is better than the fight though, is what Gene Weingarten had to say as he talked about the newsroom boxing.  I think he may have a great point – maybe some of what’s wrong with the newspaper business (this probably applies to the broader news industry as well) is that there is way more crap news than there were in “the good old days.”  The kind of “cowardly and crappy decision-making in scary times” that Gene talks about has lead to a blurring of the line between news and opinion – Gene says the news business is worse for it, and it’s hard to disagree with him. 

Obviously even if things hadn’t changed content-wise from the good old days the newspaper business would still be in danger – so many of the problems aren’t at all content driven.  Maybe the news orgs that bring back some of Gene so wistfully described will be the ones that are able to effectively charge for their content.  Who knows, maybe consumers will feel that this kind of old-school content is worth paying for.

Written by kevinbums

November 5, 2009 at 1:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

NYT nearing decision on charging for content

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According to PaidContent.org, the NYT is close to announcing their plan to charge for content online.   I’m looking forward to this announcement – although I’m not sure why it’s taking media companies so long to stop talking and start trying things.  Obviously it’s not a simple issue, and there are a lot of opinions whether or not media co’s should charge for content, and how they should do it. 

I don’t buy the “you can’t charge for content” argument – it seems like the people making this argument can never support it with solid reasoning.  Sure, media outlets that provide nothing unique that gives consumers real value will have  a tough time charging for content – but that’s a product issue not a pricing issue.  For example, I pay for ESPN Insider because the content available to insiders isn’t easily available from other sources – sure it’s out there somewhere, but I don’t have the time to scour the internet for a two sentence mention of the Kansas City Royals considering an international free agent. 

Unique, value adding content doesn’t have to be something that nobody else has, it just needs to be presented more effectively and easily than the content is from other available sources.  If a media company has some of this kind of content that consumers value (either because of convenience or because it’s not available anywhere else), why not build a community around it and charge for it?  Sure, not everyone will want to pay for this kind of content, but the people who do incredibly valuable – these consumers who are so interested in something that they’re willing to pay for quality or convenience enable are exactly who advertisers want to reach.  An engaged community of these consumers is an asset that publishers can leverage to substantially increase ad revenue. 

The sooner media companies stop looking at the short-term effects of charging for some or all of their content on traffic, and start focusing on the long-term opportunities for revenue generation online, the better chance they stand of being one of the media companies who is around 5 years from now to talk about the old days when people didn’t think you could be profitable publishing content online.

Written by kevinbums

November 1, 2009 at 7:03 pm

If newspapers really are dead, this is why

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I know it’s fashionable to say that a wide variety of things are dead – newspapers, printed books, Elvis, etc.  For the most part the people saying these things have a vested interest in these things being dead sooner rather than later, (except for the fools who keep claiming Elvis is dead – they’re just in denial) declaring things dead at the slightest sign of trouble . 

However, if this is the kind of thing that newspapers are expecting to help save their business maybe they really are dead.  A “new look” for their printed paper is really what these clowns are focused on?  With the quarter that AH Belo, owner of the Providence Journal, just turned in you’d think that their focus would be on new sources of revenue, new delivery methods and new ways of monetizing their content – not rearranging things in a paper whose circulation numbers look uglier by the day. 

I’m sure that the changes at the Journal will be welcomed by some readers, but is this the kind of thing that will increase circulation or help the paper in any meaningful way?  Sure, I guess it could slow the bleeding in their circulation numbers a little bit – but is that a goal that’s worth the resources that likely went into it?  It seems to me that a better use of resources might be increased focus on how to monetize content online – if only so your executive editor doesn’t have to say things like “My favorite three words these days are: I don’t know,” when asked about how the company will charge for their content online.  If I’m an AH Belo shareholder, quotes like that make me want to run for the hills (or at least my broker to sell). 

I’m not sure how long newspapers are going to remain clueless on issues like whether or how to charge for their content,  but I do know that focusing on making trivial changes to your printed paper won’t produce the answer.

If newspapers are going to survive they need to shift their focus from things intended to effect small changes on print circulation to how they are going to make money in the future – craigslist isn’t going away, classified ads aren’t coming back, and circulation numbers aren’t going to improve (especially for papers like the Providence Journal, and similar papers around the country).  I’d love to see newspapers survive, I love to read – but seeing executives focus on trivial changes like this has me worried.

Written by kevinbums

November 1, 2009 at 2:26 am