Archive for May 2009

Paid content versus free, revisited

May 21, 2009

By Vicki Russell
Have you noticed all the recent comic strips poking fun at the newspaper industry for giving away content in online editions? Our cartoonists, it seems, are using their clever skills to prod management into questioning this business plan.
Since early this year the idea of charging for online content seems to be getting a more serious look. Of course, the debate over free vs. paid isn’t new. The change in recent months is the tenor of the discussion. In past years, skeptics and critics dismissed the notion out of hand. The culture of the internet won’t allow it, they said. On the ’net, everything is free.
For the most part, naysayers have been correct.
Several newspapers have experimented with charging for content. Few have succeeded. The New York Times has been there, done that and surrendered. However, NYT publisher Arthur Sulzberger made headlines the other day when he hinted at returning to a paid model. More and more journalists and business analysts are urging newspapers to get on with the inevitable.
As you well know, the old working concept has been to encourage traffic to a site and then sell ads to generate the revenue stream. Newspapers have over-achieved in the traffic department. Newspaper sites are typically among the most popular in any community. And we all sell ads, but the online advertising model is moving out of its infancy at a breathtaking speed; sophisticated buyers have begun to demand things many newspapers and ad agencies simply aren’t prepared to deliver yet.
While some newspapers have just started to sell views by the thousands, advertisers have moved on to pay-per-click and are now asking about pay-per-sale. And they want ads paired with content that is sure to attract readers likely to buytheir products and services. Who knows what the market will demand in another six months. More important, who knows whether the online ad revenue engine will ever become powerful enough to sustain legacy news organizations.
So, we wrestle with the notion
of charging for content. Doug Crews, MPA executive director, and I think this might be a good topic for a session during the MPA convention in October. The question is how to frame the discussion meaningfully. We don’t want to rehash the known issues but instead to find speakers who can help Missouri newspapers move forward with their various strategies.
Are you interested, too? If so, please give us some guidance. This issue is like peeling an onion. There are too many layers for a one-hour presentation. Help us drill down by telling us more specifically what you want to know. Maybe we can come up with concepts that offer greater promise and manageability than anything out there now. I have that kind of faith in our membership.



May 8, 2009

A recent reader survey conducted by Pulse Research suggests a silver lining for publishers and retailers.  Despite economic woes, readers are as active in searching, planning, and purchasing.

Apr. 29, 2008 ­ Portland, OR.  Pulse Research has concluded its online Pulse of America Survey, conducted March 16 ­ April 15, 2009.  Readers in all 50 States are represented in the findings with over 250 publications participating. Publication types participating included daily, weekly, free, alternative, business and ethnic publications.

The research shows encouraging signs of reader planned shopping activity.  In the midst of a difficult economic climate, survey participants purchasing plans over the next 12 month is stronger than generally perceived. Despite the recent economic downturn, opportunities continue to emerge for retailers and publishers as 25.5% of readers plan to increase their spending in the next 12 months.

Print media may face intense competition, but it is far from dead according to the Pulse of America survey.  Approximately 12% of readers surveyed indicated their readership of printed publications will increase over the next 12 months, 41.6% indicate it will remain the same and 9.4% state it will decrease. Also of interest is that 32% of readers believe that the print edition of newspapers will be around 20 years or longer, while 28% state less the print edition will be around for less than five years.

In key economic categories such as real estate and automotive, planned reader purchasing over the upcoming 12 months is becoming more positive:  9.6% of readers plan to purchase a personal residence, 6.4% plan to sell their residence, 6.6% plan to remodel their home, 22% of readers plan to shop a vehicle dealer in the next 12 months with 8.9% planning to purchase a new car and 3.7% planning to purchase a new truck.

Retailers will find encouraging reader demand over the next 12 months in a wide range of categories according to the survey’s results: some examples:  14.1% plan to purchase living room furniture, 16.2% plan to purchase a laptop computer, 10% plan to purchase windows, 62% plan to purchase women’s shoes and 8.8% plan to purchase a major home appliance.

The Pulse of America survey also indicates positive opportunities for service businesses during the next 12 months such as:  chiropractors 13%, cellular phone providers 16% , carpet cleaning 24% and massage therapists 20%.  Purchasing plans are documented for 303 business-advertiser categories including everything from art galleries to wineries.

The overall picture of the reader economy, in short, appears more vibrant than some conventional indicators may suggest.

Publishers can get a complimentary copy of the Pulse of America survey results at

For more information contact: John W. Marling, President, Pulse Research 503.784.5772 or

Pulse Research, Inc. is an independent research firm founded by a former newspaper publisher with over 35 years of experience in the industry.  Pulse Research is one of the nation’s largest publication research firms, having completed over 4,000 surveys for more than 3,000 clients.

John W. Marling – President
Pulse Research