Communication Matters - our blog on trends and events


Fighting evolution with $5 fees

I had lunch the other day with an executive who lamented the loss of the printed page. Admittedly, the discussion was a bit premature, but we agreed that the evolution of newspapers from print products to digital ones is inevitable.

Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, offered his viewpoint on this process within a post on the New York Review of Books Web site.

“I think traditional news organizations—including the Times but also many others—will continue to evolve. We will survive in print as long as the revenues justify it (and, thanks in part to growing circulation revenues, they still do) but we will grow, adapt, and ultimately prosper on all manner of nonprint platforms,” he wrote.

Of course, he is right. Nonprint platforms such as the digital article, the video, RSS feeds, etc. will continue to improve. Newsprint could become just like our appendix. Nice to have, but oh so unnecessary. It’s not the public’s appetite for information that is dwindling, just their interest in outmoded forms of communication.

I really enjoyed this post on Taking The Plunge: How Newspaper Sites That Charge Are Faring by Joseph Tartakoff. In it, he describes how a variety of publications are faring while charging for the information they post online. Most notable is that some of these newspapers started charging for access in the past few months. Yes, the newspaper world is changing fast!

The Newport (R.I.) Daily News is charging $5 a day for online access. The whole point is to discourage readers from getting their information online and instead return to the printed paper. The publisher told Tartakoff that “so far ‘we have done well,’ adding that single-copy sales are up 8 percent. Web site traffic is down by about 30 percent since the paper began to charge,” according to published figures.

As much as I enjoy reading a paper on newsprint, this approach seems a bit futile. Can a $5-a-week surcharge stop the force of evolution? We know that won’t work. Just ask the Times’ Keller.

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