Most newspapers now actively considering paid access options for Web content

Wide variety of approaches being considered

RESTON, Va. — Nearly 60 percent of newspapers are considering initiating paid access for currently open/free news and information Web site content, according to initial results from a new survey on paid content revenue initiatives released today at The American Press Institute’s Newsmedia Economic Action Plan Conference.

The paid content survey, conducted by ITZBelden in partnership with API, was launched in August. Invitations to participate were sent to 1,350 U.S. and 30 Canadian newspapers. The 118 responses in the initial report represent a wide cross section of large, mid-size, small and very small markets.

Among the findings: • 90 percent of the respondent newspapers currently do not charge for content. • Only 3 percent currently have a paid-only site. • Nearly 25 percent expect to implement a paid strategy in the next six months.

The responses paint a picture of an industry that is actively engaged in a conversation about many new directions it can take with monetizing content. When given 15 different options of which pay models to implement, respondents indicated they were seriously considering 11 of them. “Much of the public debate seems to assume that newspapers are going to be charging for subscriptions online after putting their content behind a pay wall, but the internal conversations really go far beyond this,” said ITZ Publishing CEO Greg Swanson. “Companies are talking about paid content strategies as diverse as new partnerships with niche players, content delivery on new devices, packaging content for the greatest appeal to certain audiences, and creating new revenue platforms for which content is a key part.”

Among the challenges news organizations face is a consistent problem with the way unique visitors to their Web sites are calculated – a fact that came through in the paid content survey responses and is reflected in additional ITZBelden research. This can result in a serious lack of understanding of audience behavior and can limit the effectiveness of any business plan that includes paid access.

A link to the slides from today’s presentation is available at http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/09/newsmedia/. There is no cost to participate in the survey, and newspapers that have not yet responded can still do so through September 30, according to Swanson.

Participants will receive an executive summary of the survey results, highlighting what approaches newsmedia organizations are taking to issues like paid access, site registration, electronic editions and tracking original content across the Web. Newspapers that contribute their own detailed benchmarking data will also receive a copy of the aggregated database of all survey participants.

In addition to current revenue strategies and practices of newspaper Web sites, the final paid content survey report will analyze the impact of various content strategies on the bottom line, including benchmarking data that will allow peer-to-peer comparisons in various market sizes across the industry. API and ITZBelden also plan to provide quarterly updates, so the industry has the most up-to-date information from which to make its decisions. For additional information on participating in the paid content survey, please contact Greg Swanson at itzgreg@gmail.com / (503) 241-3650 or Greg Harmon at itzharmon@gmail.com / (415) 566-4348. The Newsmedia Economic Action Plan Conference, an invitation-only event for API corporate members, continues through Tuesday. ——————————————————————————————
About The American Press Institute
The American Press Institute (www.americanpressinstitute.org) is an independent educational center based in Reston, Va. API provides skills-based training and leadership development in the newsmedia industry, offering seminars, onsite programs and consulting for newspaper professionals and organizations. About Belden Interactive Belden Interactive, based in San Francisco, specializes in audience research for Internet companies, with a focus on the news and information industry.

For more information, visit http://www.beldeninteractive.com, or call (415) 566-4348. About ITZ Publishing ITZ Publishing, based in Portland, Ore., provides a leading voice nationwide in Internet revenue development for media companies. ITZ has also been retained by Journalism Online LLC to provide benchmarking studies to affiliates and help maximize online revenue opportunities. For more information, visit http://www.itzpublishing.com, or call (503) 241-3650 or (800) 647-6917.

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