Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Who, What, When, Why and How

I am Robb Crocker, a graduate student at Rutgers University. I received my undergraduate degree at Virginia Commonwealth and had some wonderful work experiences in the new media field, but with the changing environment in media, I wanted to arm myself with more education. Ironically, I have not been the biggest advocate of Weblogs. In fact, outside of a couple of sports blogs, I really pay them no mind. But since I have created this and I have ownership of this, I am going embrace it.

Enough about me. For the next six weeks, I am going to examine the websites of newspapers and how they might be the downfall for the print editions. Every once in awhile, you hear a rumor about how the New York Times or the Washington Post is going to charge for online content. There are some subtle clues that appear to be baby steps to charging for content. For example, the Washington Post charges for pictures from their website. The photos cost anywhere from $19.95 to $324.95.

According to this article from the Nieman Journalism Lab, the Washington Post is exploring pay for online content by gauging user interest. The paper recently introduced an iPhone application that allows purchasers to read the paper's content, charging $1.99 a year for the app. Although the cost is small, the Post just wants to see if readers are will to pay at all for content. Coincidentally, I have the app and I am very happy with it and have no issue paying for it.

The New York Times is charging $4.62 a week for a more "digitally remastered version" of the print addition that will be delivered to your computer. In addition, as of January 2011, the Times will begin to charge frequent online users a flat fee, unless they have a daily or Sunday subscription. This model might be the most logical but I hope that the Times has done its research because another New York paper, with a different online pay plan, has appeared to be an utter disaster.

In October of 2009, Newsday, which is based in Long Island, N.Y., became the first non-business newspaper to charge for online access. According to this article in the New York Observer, after three months, only 35 people decided to pay $5 a week or $260 a year for the publication's online content. If you go to the Newsday website, you will find only headlines and teasers that stop mid-sentence. You either have to pay for the content, or if you live in Long Island, one would simply go to a newsstand. So, is the strategy to charge for Online content, eventually phasing out the print edition or is it to bring people back to the print version in addition to boosting online sales? Not quite sure what Newsday's strategy is. I would imagine that there are a lot of newspaper publishers watching very closely how this is working out.

I reached out to one of my undergraduate professors at VCU, Jeff South, who is the online media expert there and he informed me that Newsday's 35 subscriptions made sense. In an email, South said, "Newsday wanted $5 per week for the e-paper, and I think a lot of folks saw that as too compared (compared with free)." 

I Love This Quote -- A comment from Donnis Baggett, publisher of the Waco Tribune-Herald from this article on Baylor University's Lariat website:

"Newspapers across the country committed a strategic blunder when they decided to give away content that they spent money gathering," Donnis Baggett, publisher of the Waco Tribune-Herald, said. "Cable doesn't give away channels, record companies don't give away music, why should newspapers?" 

Strong words from the publisher, who started charging for online content two weeks ago. The charges range from $1.99 to $15.45.

1 comment:

  1. Robb- It will be interesting to see how your topic evolves. Baggett's comment is dead-on! How publications approach paid subscriptions in the upcoming years will be critical to how readers stay on top of their news whether through credible professional sources or through free less credible methods (i.e. free blogs/gossip sites).