Can print media survive? Part II
As with any other industry, newspapers and magazines exist to make a profit. But since people aren’t buying anymore, new approaches have to be taken.
It is the context that has changed, not the content or the demand for it. In other words, if viable methods can be created and properly executed, established newspapers and magazine companies should be able to survive and even thrive, well into the future.
London’s Evening Standard has recently taken the bold step of going completely free and has rescued itself in the process – temporarily anyway. Abandoning their per-issue price and turning solely to advertising for its income, new owner Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev, rescued the company from consistent losses. But now that the publication is seeing profits, it is probably only a short term fix in itself. With the dizzying pace of improved access to the internet via mobile devices, especially the iPad, the complete abandonment of printed news media is certainly inevitable.
One promising option is to follow in the footsteps of concepts like iTunes, where not only everything is available digitally, it is available in parts rather than as whole collections; instead of having to buy an entire album, one can purchase and download by the song.
But how would this translate exactly to the world of newspapers and magazines? We have already shown that people are not willing to pay for quality content online – but this assumes a 1-to-1 correlation, where the publications we are used to would merely be relocated to the internet as the individual entities they are today. This probably won’t work.
What may work however is a concept offered by Journalism Online that offers a universal payment system shared by ALL subscribing companies. Customers would select from a list of options and pay various fees for online access to a few or all companies within the system.
Among these options would be a micro-payment arrangement (a la iTunes) that charges instantly for per-page view, or a broader access via monthly or annual billing – with options for full access to one, several or all of the news services available within the site.
This begs the question however: how do you get mega-monopolists like Rupert Murdoch to come on board? Clearly the success of any such system would depend on the cooperation of many different publications that are already fighting desperately for their territory. Someone like Murdoch who owns such a massive chunk of that territory is likely to resist such a concept more than anyone else.
But he and many others may not have that choice. Time will tell if his experiment will work, but in this climate in which the customer is gaining more and more control over where and how they get their news, he and the rest of the drowning print news world will probably be forced to give in to this or another similar online subscription system.
Or die trying to fight it.
By Jon Simpson, Logical Design, September 27, 2010