Tag Archives: Media

We need plans, not prayers

I like (mis)quoting Edward Miller, who once said that saying “I want better writing in this section” isn’t a plan, it’s a prayer, and one that’s unlikely to be answered.

Well, the media is full of those these days, from Dean Singleton to Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch just told Rueters that people will be paying for newspaper content on the Web, saying premium content will be available and widely-accepted.  That’s easy for him to say: people already pay for the premium news that the Wall Street Journal offers.

But would you be willing to pay for the gossip columns in the New York Post? I’ll admit to reading them occasionally, but I wouldn’t pay for them.

In fact, what kind of premium content does Murdoch think newspapers will be able to offer? Media companies are shedding editorial jobs at an alarming rate. That means fewer people to report and write those premium stories.

I’m the first to admit there’s no good business model about making money online, though some people have interesting ideas.

But those are least something approaching a plan. They have actionable steps, goals and metrics.

Both Murdoch and Singleton have promised new and exciting content without ever saying what it would be. They’ve both also cut jobs. Those two things aren’t compatible.

Very few media companies have figured out how to charge for their content, and it hasn’t been for lack of trying. How about trying something different?

Novel ideas are what we need for the future of newspapers

Steve Outing has an interesting column on Editor and Publisher’s site about different ways to make newspapers money.

He really likes a plan from the New York Times to allow people to buy sponsorships. I wrote about the other plan from the Times last week.

Sponsorship is a fascinating idea, and Outing suggests some cool things that people could be willing to pay for.

And that’s exactly what we need. Too many publishers and CEOs are looking backward to models that were tried and failed in the mid-90s. Instead of trying to do the same thing in a different way, why not try to do something different?

So I’ll ask: what novel ideas do you have to make newspapers profitable, and how would those ideas work?

Monday morning roundup: Two looks at ways to make journalism pay

A short Monday post for right now.
TechCrunch has an interesting, detailed take down of the idea that micropayments are the future of journalism.

Some salient points (I’ll let you read the whole thing if you want to):

  • Everyone NEEDS to make profit, but only strong businesses will. In other words, just because you run a media company, it doesn’t mean you automatically deserve to make money.
  • The micro-payment ideas might be great for publishers or companies like Google, but not necessarily for journalists.
  • And this quote, from Freakonomics: “Putting micropayments on news is like putting tollbooths on an open ocean. Internet users, awash in a sea of information, will avoid new barriers by navigating around them. And frankly, the interests of a free society are rarely served by building barriers between the people and their news.”

The founder of Spot.us has a lengthy post on PBS‘s MediaShift Idea Lab blog with some insights on the start-up’s first six months.

The big takeaway? Readers are less willing to pay for the quick-hit, short journalism that dominates so many newspapers these days. They want something in-depth, well-reported and that presents original ideas. Big-think analysis pieces (like the one I’m writing now?) aren’t as popular.

So what say you? Find any interesting media analysis today?

Metered web reading is our savior?

The New York Times has a fascinating proposal to make some money off Web content: metered reading. You’d get so much for free, then to continue, you’d have to pony up.

It strikes me as a quintessentially New York solution, in that it reminds me of a taxi’s meter. And it might work for them. Executive Editor Bill Keller told staff that there needs to be a balance between too small a free period, which would drive people away, and too long, which wouldn’t get much revenue.

The Times is in a strong position, as they already make a lot of money from online ads. But not all local sites are. It could be that their sales staff isn’t good at selling online ads, or their advertisers don’t understand the value, but they aren’t able to claim much revenue from the Web.

So you can see why executives at local papers might be tempted to follow suit. But before we rush, lemming-like, to implement this (actually!) new idea, let’s have a think about it.

The Times is in a really great position in terms of content. They have fresh, constantly updated stories from all over the world, covering any topic you can imagine. You could spend hours roaming around the site, and, indeed, some people do. They also have hundreds of journalists filing stories. Do you?

Say you’re a mid-sized local paper with about a dozen reporters filing stories every day. You’ve convinced them to file early and often for the Web, and they’re doing that. On a good day, you add a few dozen stories during the day, covering breaking news, crime, traffic and local government. That appeals well to your base of readers, but your base is much smaller than that of the Times. And how long would it take to read all those stories?

Revenue models aren’t one-size-fit-all, as we should already know. This metering plan MIGHT work for very large, national papers with rich archives, lots of fresh content and many different topics to choose from. But for smaller papers, ones that have to compete with television stations or other media sources, it might end up driving people into the arms of their competitors.

There are other models out there, which might fit better. (And I hope to talk more about some soon).