Tuesday, February 10, 2009


With the economy in shambles and the newspaper world crashing and burning just as fast, editors are searching for the golden ticket to solve all our problems.

As a budding journalist myself, I balance between feelings of excitement and despair. I'm excited for the future of journalism, seeing how the internet extends reach and leaves more room for words and creative packaging. But, I also remain realistic; no revenues means no salaries.

Josh sent me Time's How to Save Your Newspaper article and midway through reading it I had an epiphany; I think know how to solve the revenue problem.

So, it is clear that in order for the newspaper industry to, well, be profitable (i.e. make money to pay us starving writers), there has to be some way to bring in money. Advertising and subscriptions paid papers' bills in the past, but the explosion of newssites and blogs stripped print newspaper of its place of satisfying news-hunger civilians.

Can you blame people though? Free, instant news vs print that you have to pay for (even if it is less than a dollar a day)? The choice is a no-brainer.

But I think the answer lays in why readers are drawn online. I often find myself to newspaper's websites not just for the text, but for the multimedia. SoundSlides, interactive maps, tweets, comments, widgets, databases: these are all things that would not be possible to have in a print addition, yet add so much more depth and value to a piece.

The dilemna newspapers have is finding feasible ways to charge readers. The suggestion of making people pay to access sites or individual articles would not work; relevant news is blogged about and run through countless wires, many of which are free. Publications have no real leverage in holding stories from the public like they might have in the past.

But, that's not to say publications do not have anything more to offer readers; they have leverage in multimedia. The interactive content put up by the New York Times and Washington Post shows exactly how much value multimedia has when it is done well. Effective multimedia allows readers to really dive into aspects of coverage they find the most interesting as well as making it specific to their lives.

Newspapers need to maintain the basic newssites they have now, which are basically "webified" verisons of their daily print addition. The money-making would come from the option of readers to pay for access to the multimedia verison of the newspaper. Make all the interactive and multimedia elements exclusive, available to subscribers only.

It's the extra content that would set newspapers apart, driving not only the evolution of how we can use techonology to deliver news but also push the envelope on how we can do it in creative and engaging ways. Multimedia has a style about it, just like reporters have a style to their coverage or writing. Paper's multimedia work would establish names for itself, maybe incidently catering to a certain demographic or having a signature gadget that would draw subscribers.

I could see people paying a fee for access, mostly because I think I would myself. I think there are enough people out there who care about the future of newspaper that I know a solution will surface. And even if there are people losing faith and giving up hope, I'm looking forward to working for the new industry, or at least working to make that new industry.


Jhshaw44 said...

Interesting idea. I think a combination of paying for "exclusive" content in a non-subscription way would be the best bet. The Time article talked about coming up with a way that people can spend a very small amount of money impulsively and I think that could apply to your idea. Spending $10 a month up front for a year to view exclusive content is a lot to ask of a person but if you can charge them 5 cents a day and make it so one click allows them to deposit the money, I think it could be effective.

Your point about paying for actual news is right on though. Too many people don't care about reading the best articles, they just want the news and there are too many news sites that will offer information for free. I think the New York Times is the best but I would easily switch to any other big national newspaper if it was free.

I heard about the article because the guy was on the Daily Show and made a few good points there too.

Good thing I don't have to worry about this crap for 2 years...

Catherine said...

I think this is a solid idea, but how different is it from what the NYT did with Times Select? That didn't work out so well, and they stopped offering it as a subscription service, but I wonder if that's because they didn't offer enough multimedia options?