Over the last couple of months the newspaper industry has seemed increasingly desperate to generate new revenue streams in particular from the internet. If you take a look at the revenue figures for newspapers it is easy to see why.
News Corp who own one of the worlds largest newspaper businesses saw Q1 operating profit drop 47% and they are not alone.
Since Murdoch initially mentioned the idea that newspapers should start charging subscriptions for their websites in May there has been a growing sense amongst the newspaper industry that a subscription model for online access to their content is the way forward.
So is subscription going to save the industry or is it yet another badly thought out attempt by an industry that doesn’t really understand what is going on around them to grab revenue where it can?
You can probably tell from my choice of words that I don’t believe this will save the industry.
Newspapers have done well up to now for two reasons, firstly the convenience of the format. Traditionally there where three primary platforms for absorbing news: TV, radio and newspapers and each of these had a very different format which where used at different times and in different ways.
Newspapers provided the ideal way to transport news. They where sized to be comfortable to read on a bus or a train, lightweight, cheap and easy to dispose of. You couldn’t take a TV to work with you; you couldn’t take a radio of a flight so the newspaper was perfect.
The second reason was the control and flow of information. In order to report news particularly news from a foreign country you had to get a reporter there, have researchers available to check facts and figures and a way to broadcast the information. This kind of operation cost a lot of money and required a large infrastructure. Newspapers where perfectly setup to take advantage of this structure and there where very few competitors.
Internet technology and in particular Social internet technology have been eroding away the need for large-scale organization and at the same time increasing the number of devices, that news is accessible on.
Think laptops, netbooks, iPhones, your computer at home, your computer at work, in fact for a good deal of people, they are never more than a few clicks away from huge stores of information. These stores of data are called websites and pretty much anybody can run one.
As soon as information is available on one website, it has the capability to be available on millions through technology such as RRS. Added to this platforms like twitter allow near instantaneous transmission of messages to potentially millions of people, meaning almost no information is unique.
The less unique information is the less valuable it is and information is newspapers currency.
Much like the music industry of the late nineties and early two thousands, instead of finding ways to use this new technology to their advantage the newspaper industry is mostly trying to either ignore the problem or threatening to sue anyone they can find, usually Google.
Now that it is becoming increasingly obvious neither of these strategies is working, they are trying to fall back to the offline model of subscription.
Why not try something new, how about add-ons to their service?
An example of where they might want to start their thinking is already here have a look at Techdirt a professional online blogging network that has come up with a range of add-ons to help their newsgathering and analysis business. I am not suggesting that mainstream newspapers follow this exact model but to me at least its seems a lot better than anything they have come up with so far.
If you want to read some more insight it is on my company website Yomego
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