We all know advertising alone on the Web won’t save journalism, so we must find alternative solutions.
As a part of my master’s work at Hofstra University, I’ll be looking into different models and attempting to find one that will work for a hyperlocal news organization.
And the debate on both sides is age-old.
Some comments on some studies contend news sites could work together and all begin to charge a small fee to begin, and “ramp” up the price until it is a sustainable business. The trouble with that is in a highly competitive industry such as journalism, getting rival news orgs to get along and play the same game is a lofty goal.
And if there are questions of whether the public will pay for news on one site, imagine the questions swirling over whether readers will pay to read the same news on four different sites (i.e. the New York newspaper market). This will breed more competition, innovation and perhaps the market would push one in front of the others. While that sounds good, it could result in news orgs shutting down, and leaving the public with fewer viewpoints and voices.
It seems to be common sense that giving something to the public for free for 15 years, then trying to charge $250 a year isn’t a great idea. At the very least, news organizations need to work on Web innovation now in their planning for a future when some content (if not all) comes at a price to the reader.
- create valuable and evergreen flash products
- develop workflows for daily online video (packaged and live)
- grow a community through social media sites
- survey how much viewers follow live blogs and live chats
Realizing the habits of viewers with these services will only benefit news orgs in the future, and tell them what their audience is willing to pay for. The average online media organization will have to work harder and do more in a day, but after giving their hard work away for free on the Internet for so long, they’ve dug their own hole. Looking into the list above (plus I’m sure many others) may help some get out of that hole, and by charging for those services, help news media turn a profit online.
Last week Nassau News Live received more than 3,000 unique visitors, most of them reading two articles by Geoff Smith on the Nassau County elections.
First, congratulations to Geoff. He stayed at Democrat headquarters until 12:30 a.m., interviewed incumbent (and now re-elected) district attorney Kathleen Rice and had video of a media question/answer session with incumbent county executive Thomas Suozzi (his re-election bid is now in the hands of 10,000 absentee ballots).
Second, and by far the most surprising development to come out of last week’s coverage, is Nassau News Live was linked on Politico. From this we received hundreds of hits last week, and more are coming to our site from the Politico article. Now I may be leaping here, but perhaps a reason why Geoff Smith’s coverage was linked is not only because of its vast use of multimedia and its great reporting, but also because the “big boy” in town, Newsday, now demands online viewers be subscribers or pay $5 each week they want access.
Due to the paywall, it’d be smart of other websites looking to include links in their reporting find alternative sources than attempting to send their viewers to a paywall from a major media player, where they’ll only read a couple paragraphs.
With the Web becoming more tangled and intertwined as bloggers and media sites link to each other all over the Internet, there are thousands of hits (and dollars of advertising) at stake.
There is no denying that the business model is broken, but to keep out viewers who may not be returning to that big media site enough in a week to justify paying a fee, and keeping out viewers who have no option to receive a subscription, is broken as well. There is a middle ground and a compromise that needs to be struck between the pay-for-all and the free-for-all models currently at work.
Nearly every day I hear the “End of Newspapers” is coming as in The
New York Times won’t exist or local newspapers won’t exist. That’s
just not true. A newspaper operation may not focus on its print
product, and embrace the Web, but its journalism operation will still
The experience that the reporters at these newspapers across the U.S.
is too great for the newspapers to fail. In fact, more local
newspapers are embracing the Web a lot better than their television
station counterparts. And television has the benefit of already
packaged video. Newspapers have to go an extra mile to add video to
its Web site.
There shouldn’t, however, be a distinction made on the Internet
between and television-based media outlet and a newspaper-based one,
since in the end of the day their Web products should be similar. They
should have vast multimedia content. Live video and reporting, mobile
tools that bring users up-to-date information and publish any time of
day. In the past television and newspapers didn’t directly compete –
now that their media outlets in the same markets (if any of them are
still separate) are both on the Internet, they are now competing and
will have to learn how to handle the new environment of that
competition in terms of advertising and news gathering.
Newspapers as a physical product may dwindle and fade eventually, but
the media outlets that currently produce them will continue to produce
quality journalism – as long as they continue down the path of
embracing the Web, find out how to do in a cost-effective manner and
find a workable business model for the Web.
New York Newsday will finish completion and implementation of its pay wall this week. For roughly 300,000 Newsday subscribers plus thousands of other Cablevision Internet subscribers, they change won’t mean anything. But for the millions of other residents of Long Island, millions of residents in New York City and transplanted New Yorkers throughout the country, the change will either mean forking over $5 a week, or finding their way to other web sites.
Newsday is the only major print publication, and Cablevision the only major media conglomerate on Long Island, so on paper Newsday may see this as an opportunity to capitalize on being the only big game in town, but it may open the door to hyperlocal web sites that can deliver the same news to web users. Patch.com, owned by AOL/Time Warner, is already looking to expand to Long Island, and Long Island Press recently updated its web site and is pouring as much content on to it as possible.
This also may signal an opportunity for weekly publications to increase their web presence to compete for advertisers with Newsday.
According to Editor and Publisher, Newsday lost 25 percent of hits from August to September (around the same time of its new web design), which brought with it new glitches with RSS feeds, SEO etc. Obviously the industry should track Newsday’s numbers over the next few months to compare the money lost on advertising due to lower traffic numbers and the money gained from web-only subscriptions.
From reading comments on blog posts about this issue, many out-of-staters may find themselves reading the New York Post, Daily News and New York Times. But watch out for the weeklies, hyperlocals and startups that will work to fill the void left by Newsday.
No one can blame Cablevision and Newsday for trying to make revenue, but there must be a compromise between business and service. There must be a compromise between making sure Long Islanders aren’t taking advantage of free news and not subscribing to the paper, and with transplanted residents that just want to follow their hometowns or favorite sports teams once in a while without paying $260 a year.