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March 24, 2009


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Wow Isaac, it's like you knew that today the Houston Chronicle cut 90 (30%) of its newsroom today. Didn't include Linds thank god.

Have you read about the micro-subscription idea? Basically setting up newspapers like an itunes model where you pay a pittance for content, like a penny or nickel per article. Perhaps get a subscription of some sort for sites you expect to use on a regular basis. I like it, especially since you don't have to commit to a paper in order read it. I think the other attractive thing is that if people are paying, the advertising would be worth more since you would have more info about who is using the product.

But it is time to start paying for content. If that means dreaded intellectual property laws to prevent others from poaching your material so be it. For all the press's flaws, we need someone paying attention.

If I had more energy, I would post a link about microsubscription (it was a Time cover story) or to David Simon's article about how police reporting has changed in B-more from the Post (it's on my facebook page) but that's all I got.


This in reference to your thoughtful posts lately about this blog and your energy and commitment....

I really love reading what you have to say about theater, directing, and the arts – when your passion and expertise are evident.

When you start a post with ,

"Now the whole Death-of-the-Newspaper is something I must admit I don't know a heckuva lot about..."

ought that not ring a little bell somewhere?

This comment is added with all kindness and respect. In other words, " Focus, dude!"


Isaac, I think part of the problem with 4) isn't 'a culture of freeloaders' as many in the print media seem to think, but a failure to understand that the way information is consumed online is fundamentally different than in print media. Traditionally, most of these efforts by the big print outlets are sort of a subscription to the paper, or part of the paper- you log in to the site and here's the part you pay for.

But part of the value of consuming news online is that you cease to be dependent on a single source of information. You can check different sources for different stories, viewpoints, and degrees of coverage. People don't want news lock-in to a single source, and they don't want to interrupt their browsing habits with a cumbersome authentication process.

There are plenty of examples of online-only businesses that sustain themselves by giving some stuff away and charging for additional utility. But most often, they charge for utility, not for additional information. Hiding the information itself is ultimately detrimental, as it means it doesn't get indexed, aggregated, etc., and your site looses traffic.

I think you are on to something with 7. A friend of mine remarked that 100 years ago our market had 20x the print outlets it does today. Most of these outlets are owned by just a handful of parent companies, and this consolidation has led to a dearth of competition that has probably inflated advertising rates past their real value to the advertiser.

Malachy Walsh

I got a call recently from the big daily in my metropolitan area. They wanted me to subscribe. Once a big reader of newspapers (I started out as a journalist), I turned down the offer. The caller asked where I got my news. I told him: Television and Web.

He told me I was going to kill newspapers.

Well, he's right. And wrong.

The NYTimes made a mistake with Times Select. And with their online edition. NONE of it should've been available for free. Ever.

If "print" is to survive on the web, (I believe) it still needs to be subscriber based - and still needs to offer perspectives we can't find on a TV or another website. But it's definitely no-longer a "scoop" driven model. You simply can't scoop the web. Or 24 hour TV news.

The Times has a journalistic sense few others have. So, the perspective is there. (Though, they haven't helped themselves with the credibility problems they built through Jason Blair and Judith Miller.) It'll be interesting to see if they ever come up with a money making plan for the web.

It's worth noting that the Wall Street Journal gives you a few articles for free online and then makes you subscribe to get more.

There are also a few other papers that have been successful online. They're also subscription based. And some have abandoned the idea of covering national and international news to truly become a source for local information.

As to web advertising, currently, it's clear that most banner web ads are not very effective. People simply don't click anymore. Unless you're giving something away - for FREE. At best, these things are like billboards on the highway. You might notice them. You might not. But click-thru rates won't really tell you about that. Click thru just tells how compelling your story is at the moment someone sees it.

Anyway, here are a couple of links to slightly tangential - but still relevant points - on the subjects of newspapers and web advertising. Hope people find them - and the links they contain - worthwhile.

Certainly, the conversation is worthwhile.



Malachy Walsh

There's also this article which breaks it down more succinctly.

Though I think one conclusion that can also be drawn from it is that mergers and acquisitions, with the debt they create, have been no friend to the print media.


Jason Grote

Clay Shirky gots some interesting things to say on this:


Malachy Walsh

Clay's post is excellent. Thanks for the link.

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