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The Solution and the Problem

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Moderator1, Jul 6, 2008.

  1. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    We've discussed this stuff in various ways on various threads over the past few months and I thought this story I read on AJC.com kind of capsulized things for me.
    My plea has always been for newspapers to give me something to read. Forget video, forget your Web tricks, forget your alternative story forms. GIVE ME SOMETHING TO READ.

    Atlanta did today with a super story on the Francouer situation. I've always been a Stinson fan and this is what newspapers can do better than other mediums.


    Of course, I read it for free! I'm 500 miles from Atlanta.

    Maybe you tease to that on the Web? Put a blurb out there and send people to the paper? Or make me click and pay (which I would have done)? Something. You just can't give your product away.
  2. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

    Damn good story.

    And you're right. We tease to the web like crazy. Maybe we should tease to the paper as well. Does anyone do this?
  3. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    That's how it should have been set up from the start: Use the Web site to promote your print product, and offer more in the paper than you post online. Instead, newspapers not only gave away for free everything in the paper but they quickly began giving you more online than in print (extra charts, sidebars, links).

    As for Moddy's suggested solution, I'm all for it. But really meaty stories -- well-sourced, well-reported and well-written -- require time and with the manpower being shed all over the industry, that's one thing papers no longer have. Smaller staffs now are being told to do the bare minimum for print, while devoting hours to breaking "news" 24/7, blogging, podcasts, video, chats. Then you've got the stars of the business chasing extra $ outside the paper, devoting hours to radio and TV and (in many instances) gouging into the 40 they owe the paper.

    As soon as papers decided that takeout jobs and "national" beats were luxuries, the opportunity to have these in-depth, available-only-in-print(-or-by-paying-to-the-Web-site) stories became third- or fourth-priority. Sure, you can have your beat people do them but then you need someone spelling those folks for a day or three. And you'll have to get past the "shorter is better and teensy-weensy is best!" legions making decisions now.

    It would help, too, from a quality standpoint if you had your very best writers doing those stories, instead of buying out or laying off your very best writers.
  4. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    I admire Atlanta, which is in the same straits as most everyone else, for saying "get yer ass to Mississippi." I don't know what was sacrificed (probably Tom's holiday weekend) but it is the story in Atlanta right now and they did what newspapers should do and went the extra step. Then gave it to me free!
  5. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Active Member

    I tired of discussing this with a member of management at our paper. He said, "Subscriptions and rack sales don't pay our salaries. Ads do. You don't have to pay for the news on Channel 2, do you?"

    Every time I pointed out ad rates are based on circulation, and that drops in circulation (because of giving away the product online) would be costly to us, he'd say, "Yeah, but they have a way to count Web hits and factor that into the rates for advertising."

    The conversation was always a lot longer than that, but I'd usually end it by saying what Moddy did: You can't give away your product for free.

    Good thread, Moddy. Thanks. Oh, and I loved this part too:

  6. What prevents us from charging more for online ads and financing our operations that way? If we can show that's where the readers are, won't the advertisers pay to get to them?
  7. lantaur

    lantaur Active Member

    I hate to beat a dead horse, but the 50 cents you pay for a paper is not paying for the product, it is paying for the device it is delivered on.

    And online - as well as newspapers - are devised on an advertising model. And page views (or time spent on page) drives these ad rates.

    Has online lowered circ? In some cases probably a little. But there are other places on the web for business' ads than newspaper sites, and you see that with classifieds, which has been the biggest dropoff for papers.

    Charging for content just doesn't work. The AJC did try it and it didn't work. Hell, the NY Times gave up on it.

    Face it, the times they have a changed. I know it is hard for the old guard to accept that.
  8. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    It's hard to show - there are so many ways to juggle numbers and advertisers are leery of hit counts and page views and whatever. You can document sales of 150,000 papers or so they say.
    Who knows? At my old shop, they offered print/Web packages and discounts. They sold 15-second teaser ads to use in front of all the video and then someone figured out how to run the video without the ads.

    I remember one meeting where some video we'd done in sports was getting raves. It had 2,000 views! 2,000! I said, "We circulate 170,000 papers and we're jacked because 2,000 looked at a video?"

    Way more people still read the paper instead of going to the Web site. Way more. Yet at most places, it's Web-de-web-web-web and the paper is an afterthought.
  9. pressmurphy

    pressmurphy Member

    One paper I'm aware of still runs in-depth Sunday pieces that we're all used to seeing in the papers. They begin teasing it on Wednesday or Thursday by making supporting elements such as searchable databases or flash-powered maps available online with an explanation of what's coming in Sunday's paper.

    They've noticed improvement in single-copy sales with this strategy. Not huge numbers, mind you, but enough of a bump to totice and to be able to attribute to the promo strategy.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 1, 2015
  10. Mystery_Meat

    Mystery_Meat Guest

    I know a lot of people I respect are touting this "charging for the content" as though it's the golden goose and they're the only ones who see it. But here's the thing: if you wanted to implement something like that, the time to do it would have been the mid-1990s, when per-hour and per-minute Internet charges were still the industry standard. People then didn't surf for hours on end, so they'd be more open to going to one site and getting everything, since they knew they were only going to be on for a short time. But even then, once flat-rate pricing kicked in, you'd lose a lot of those customers who got more and more accustomed to paying one price for generally-unfettered access.

    Now the only way you can make charging for content a winner is if everyone charges for everything. The major web sites, the TV and radio stations, everyone. Otherwise, people will find the free way to get the information they want. Can they get it better from the newspaper? In most cases, yes. But I rather suspect the reason newspapers were strongest when they were wasn't that they provided the highest-quality information, but that they provided the most in a concise package. That's no longer the case.
  11. Babs

    Babs Member

    Agree, the subscription model has proven not to work. All the leaders are using an ad-based model. Hopefully ad rates will rise to the level necessary to sustain good work. That is the key question.

    As others have said, the pay for paper legacy is due to the printing and delivery expenses. If you eliminate those aspects, you eliminate the need to cover those expenses. You get down to ads, which is where you make or lose your money.
  12. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

    What's wrong with asking a reader to watch an ad before viewing an article?
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