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.
Posted tagged ‘Doug Crews’
By Vicki Russell
From the Desk of… Vicki Russell
I just heard through the grapevine about a column written by a noted journalist that supports the idea newspapers should get a piece of the federal bail-out action. I haven’t searched for or read the column but might … after I stop laughing.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t intend to belittle the writer. I’m sure the column legitimately lists substantive points about the importance of our industry to this country. I am amused, however, by contemplating the potential discussions on Capitol Hill.
How many concessions would newspapers have to make to participate in a bailout, for example? How far-reaching might those concessions be? Would the government become part-owners of major news organizations? What new restrictions on freedom of speech and access to information might enter the equation?
As ridiculous as all that sounds, I fear I’m not exaggerating.
No, I don’t think we can look to the federal government for solutions to the problems within our industry. We must solve them ourselves.
Doug Crews, MPA’s executive director, and I have had several discussions in recent months about what MPA can do to assist members. We are dreaming big, imagining programs so helpful that other states adopt them, too. (That wouldn’t be a first, by the way.)
We are ramping up. In January, at the Northwest Missouri Press Association meeting in St. Joseph, we rolled out a two-hour seminar focused on sales and marketing. Our objective was to provide new research results and practical tools to help members generate revenue and brand awareness
without incurring new expenses.
As the year goes along, we will use the responses we get from attendees to improve the materials and keep presenting them at regional press association meetings as long as youare interested.
I am grateful to Esther Thorsen and Margaret Duffy, faculty members at the Missouri School of Journalism, and to Mark and Eleanor Farnen, owners and executives of Strategists, LLC, for enthusiastically rolling up their sleeves to create and deliver the seminar. They are participating because of their devotion to the newspaper industry, and I hope all of you will take advantage of their expertise.
With the addition of shiny new (or cleverly remodeled) ideas from all of you, we have the collective strength and know-how to get through the economic squeeze and come out better on the other
Surviving The Great Depression and the supply shortages during past world wars couldn’t have been
much fun, but our predecessors made it. We can, too.
Thanks, too, to all who responded to my first column. I appreciate your comments and suggestions so please keep sending them (email@example.com).
Finally, I look forward to seeing you in Jefferson City for the MPA Legislative reception, MPA / AP Day at the Capitol and MSNE / Missouri APME meeting, Feb. 18-20. We can’t lose sight of all the work that needs to be done there, either.
• Columbia — Doug Crews, executive director of Missouri Press Association, was elected on Nov. 3 president of the State Historical Society of Missouri for a three-year term. He has been a member of the Society’s board of trustees and executive committee since 2004.
Others elected at the Society’s annual meeting were Missouri Supreme Court judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr., Cape Girardeau, first vice president; retired Missouri Court of Appeals judge James Reinhard, Hannibal, second vice president; U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, Springfield, third vice president; Donna Huston, Marshall, fourth vice president; Henry
J. Waters III, publisher of the Columbia Daily Tribune, fifth vice president; and Albert M. Price, Columbia, sixth vice president and treasurer.
The Society is housed in Ellis Library on the University of Missouri campus. It was founded in 1898 by the Missouri Press Association and has been a trustee of the state since 1899.