Can print media survive? part I


Newspaper circulation continues to shrink

By Jon Simpson, Logical Design, July 13, 2010

As many print publications around the world continue to close or are just barely breathing, the hunt continues for a way to survive the global shift towards the internet for free news and information. To many this is an impossible mission, believing that no one wants to pay for an online news site when the same information is available for free in countless other places.

According to a recent Yougov survey, they are right. 83 percent are unwilling to pay for any online content but approximately 60 percent actually said they would be willing to pay for a quality newspaper – as long as it is not online.

But if this is true, why are the most respected print news publications closing down in such huge numbers? It would seem that “willing to” does not equal “going to” when there is an easier way available. Karin von Abrams, senior analyst at eMarketer says of this dilemma, “The game clearly has changed for most old business models, but we don’t yet know what the successful new ones are going to be.”

Newscorp king Rupert Murdoch finally started placing his bets on July 2nd when he took the bold first step by initializing a fee for online access to The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers in London. Arguing that “Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalizing its ability to produce good reporting,” Murdoch is trying to pave the way for all of his newspapers to make this shift – something the world will be watching very closely.

Making a similar point, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times owner Sam Zell believes there will be a successful shift from print to pdf format via internet home delivery, saying that “there will never be a surplus of opinion…and I think the newspapers provide an opportunity to do that.”

But besides evidence provided by the recent yougov survey, there is another glaring problem here: online file sharing. Murdoch (and his son) vow to aggressively fight this problem but anyone who has been awake the last decade knows that this is largely a losing battle. What these publications need in order to survive into the internet age is a paradigm shift and some radical new approaches.

In Part II of this article, I will take a look at how the music industry’s response to the internet age may be a viable model, as well as the option of going completely free, with entirely ad-based revenues. With these and other emerging concepts there may be a remedy for the collapsing print media industry – a bridge toward a new and profitable online presence.

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