Friday, March 13, 2009
The Future of Media...one of them, anyway
There's a sea change under way. We've always relied on newspapers to deliver the news for cheap and reliably. Now it turns out the papers are slowly but surely dying out. Denver paper in the link above, Seattle paper here, Chicago paper here, (but referencing LA paper), ditto for Missouri papers, and the story is the same everywhere you look. There's nothing that points to a return of readers to the print media. Where, then, are those readers? funny you should ask. See, the consensus is that readers won't pay for content, or rather, that if you squeeze them out of your website, they'll just migrate to another site that won't charge. And there's plenty evidence that making people go away from your site is a bad deal. The New York Times had a subscription service for a time, then last year, they decided to stop charging and go almost all-free content in order to increase growth predictions. The idea is that you want to show through your server stats that your site has not only volume of hits, but the growth will be there in the future. Then you can pitch your business plan to your prospective advertisers and once more you can be a profitable paper. So the question is, let's suppose that you can make the web site portion of your newspaper profitable, what does it say about your printed on paper side of the business, if the ads space goes unsold? It says it's going to die. It says, let's keep it for the die-hards, but let's make it a luxury item and give it away just for the asking. Do it bundled with fat stacks of ads, though. It's funny, but in the future I see that you'll be able to print on demand, for a fee from a kiosk. Or squint and read the news in your iPhone. I'm not talking about pie in the sky either. There are outlets already that act as portals for multiple news feeds in real time, and there are print-on-demand kiosks like this one that when located at, say, a town library, can give you all the glory of printed paper if you really like it that much. Then there's kindle, that for many will do just nicely, minus the page folding. I like the feel of paper, though...
Since I wrote this, the picture has turned much bleaker. Today I read that a major Chicago Paper, the Sun-Times is under Ch.11. Read it here.