Many in the newspaper industry were stunned by the Capital Times‘s decision to move to an online-only edition. IDG Magazines decision to drop the print edition of InfoWorld, while equally surprising, is quite different and vastly more logical. Magazines, in most cases (and certainly in the case of InfoWorld’s), are focused on one theme or subject. As such, the consumer/reader is likely to make their way through a lot of pages and/or page views as their interest in the topic has already been established. The ability to monetize the content online should be relatively close to the print version, all things considered, creating an opportunity for the online version to come close to prior print ad revenue totals. Further, the advertising tends to be fairly relevant and is typically of interest as well.
The issue for newspapers is that the print-version revenue assumes a reader consumes the entire paper; given the breadth of what a newspaper covers each day and the breadth of advertising, this does not translate as well online. Certainly newspapers have garnered solid traffic online and seem to be doing a pretty good job of monetizing that traffic. But with better measurement of this traffic relative to the print version, coupled with the likelihood that an online newspaper reader will spend less time online than with the print paper, newspapers are going to have tremendous difficulty regaining lost print ad revenue ground with online. Newspapers still need to generate other revenue sources, and quickly.
Inevitably, newspapers need to shed their manufacturing and distribution operations to rationalize their costs. It could be that certain content gets printed fewer days a week, e.g. classifieds, or the paper altogether goes online in a pdf type format most days of the week. In any case, these early online-only formats will be closely watched.