- Go digital, go lean -- focus the staff on news, not distribution. If they don't outright nix all distribution, these papers should put their offline content on an even footing with their online content and stop making people pay for it. Given that the profits from the sold papers really come from the ads anyway, this isn't as big a deal as it sounds, but it only works if the papers become leaner and greener -- by cutting down the sections and focusing on the content hard to find elsewhere (local and regional).
- Go subscription. Since distribution is so expensive, offering free content online not only cannibalizes readers, but it doesn't really save a full-scale daily any money... because the trucks still have to go out and those printing factories still need to churn, daily. If there's a strong online presence, it would have to be for-pay, but even if it's for pay -- it's still probably a sink to the company, since the company is still having to pay for all those trucks even though it would have fewer papers to deliver. One way to make a website available to subscribers, without causing that sink, would be to only give access to the articles on the web to those who are subscribing anyway, or at least make online subscribers pay more than print.
- Go nonprofit. For local and community papers, this probably makes the most sense. If it's really just about keeping a local news presence, a nonprofit starts to make a lot of sense, because eliminating the need for these companies to make a major profit would be liberating for them.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Future Media Models
David posted on the Globe's growing subscription troubles, which I saw as a good opportunity to discuss one of my old, favorite topics: the media. Ryan's Take hasn't focused on the local media as much as it used to, but it's still an issue that's important to me. Basically, I think there's only a few ways forward.