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Summary:

Most newspapers are tiptoeing into the world of charging for content — if they’re going there at all. But not the Newport Daily News . The…

imageMost newspapers are tiptoeing into the world of charging for content — if they’re going there at all. But not the Newport Daily News . The paper is about to start charging readers more than twice as much for the electronic edition as for the print edition in an attempt to drive readers to the print version. It plans to charge $345 a year for online access, compared to $145 a year for home delivery (Visitors can also pay $5 to get the paper online for a day).

The plan just might work — at least in the short-term — for The Newport Daily News. Right now, the paper’s readers don’t have many other online options to get local news, according to the Nieman Journalism Lab. The paper is also not at risk of losing a free online audience that’s generating much ad revenue. The site averages only about 20,000 uniques a month, according to Compete.com, and the paper has never heavily promoted its website as a source of news. But it’s easy to imagine that a local news blog will now try to move in to fill the void that The Newport Daily News will be leaving online. Indeed, commenters to the Nieman Journalism Lab piece note the existence of three hyperlocal sites in the region that will certainly have an impetus to try to beef up their coverage.

For now, visitors can still access The Newport Daily News‘ content for free online during a limited trial period. Publisher Albert Sherman tells Nieman Journalism Lab in a video interview that so far, results look promising: “Some of the respondents to the test period on the internet said why would they pay for it on the internet when they can go buy the printed paper. That’s perfect. That’s what we want.” So why bother maintaining a website at all? Sherman says that some people who live outside of Newport might be willing to pay to keep up with goings on there.

  1. Wow. There is not getting it, there is REALLY not getting it, and then there is this.

    When are newspapers going to realize that times and delivery methods have changed and stop trying to force readers back in time? Whether or not to try to charge for online content is one thing. This is actually offensive and insulting to their readership and should cost them whatever local goodwill they have.

    Online delivery is cheaper. When someone pays 50 cents or a dollar for a paper they know they are paying for that to have been printed and delivered. When they flick on the computer they know those costs were not there and expect to pay less (or nothing). When I mail a letter I pay for a stamp. When I send an email I pay much much less.

    Papers need to stop running around with their notion that every piece of content in every paper is outstanding, impossible to replace, and vital to the American Republic and understand they are in a competitive market to deliver information to people.

    They need to learn how to lower there costs. They have been money printing monopolies for too long.

    And they need to realize that their big problem is that they cannot convince their advertisers that spots on the web site are worth as much as spots in print. That is the solution they need, not convincing readers they need to embrace complex payment systems for content that has always been free. Yes, always free. Few newspapers (or magazines) collect enough from selling issues to even cover production and delivery costs – expenses largely absent from their web sites. People have been getting this content free for years. They have just been paying a delivery fee.

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  2. DONNNGGGGGGGGG! Whats that I hear?

    Oh its a death knell! Wave goodbye to your business NDN. There will be so many alternatives to pop up to take your place few will remember you were around at all. At best you may end up being a fossil curiosity. If you move online exclusively you may not make your usual gross profits, but you may survive. If you need a business model let me know.

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  3. Charging so much more for online may not be the way to, but charging (at least in some form) is definitely the way to go.

    Think about it. The reason so many people say they read online is because "why should I pay for something I can get online for free?" That's a rational consumer response.

    The content is the same, just the delivery system is different. If Evian charged you for a 12-ounch plastic bottle of water, but said you could have a 12-aluminum can of water for free, we'd say they were nuts. Why should newspapers be any different? Because the Internet has trained people to expect something for nothing?

    And Ric is dead wrong about "so many alternatives … few will remember you were around at all." Studies of the handful of newspapers that have gone online only have found their websites' unique visits have gone DOWN. Out of sight, out of mind.

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  4. The water comparison is bad because the delivery cost for the bottle and can are similar. In both cases the buyer is paying because the product is made available to them in a physical form where they want it, much like buying the print edition of the paper in the train station, say. The same person will use the tap at home, possibly with a water filter that costs a fraction of what the small bottle does.

    It is not just delivery systems that change. Papers have to do more than just put the same paper online. They should use their brand recognition to start clusters of sites for their local market.

    Remember the web also allows their competitors to offer information so they have to be aggressive to be the best and give users a reason to get it from them.

    Paying for access to most newspaper content is a pipe dream. It's not going to happen. Papers have themselves convinced people "should" be willing to pay and that they have to come up with a clever way to do it. They will spend time and money chasing something that will never work while their brands erode.

    And btw, the Internet didn't train people to expect something for free. TV networks spend billions producing programs vying for viewer eyeballs. People have paid for ppers because they are paying for the cost of the actual printed item.

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