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The first few hours of my day are typically predictable — breakfast, e-mails, small work tasks, exercise and scan the news. I listen to NPR and peruse MSNBC.com. Occasionally, I check out a few local sites and review my Google Reader for anything else of interest. But a newspaper hasn’t come to my house in years — why pay for something you can get for free, right?

And herein lies the problem. At some point, newspapers decided that CONTENT didn’t have value. Newsprint, ink, running the presses, delivering the paper — these had value because they had hard costs. The content’s value, though, was demeaned when news organizations began posting it online for free. And as newspapers begin to shut down, they absolutely must review their business model. Advertising alone isn’t enough to sustain. If you have a nonprofit, a la NPR, you have different options available to you. (I personally contribute to NPR because I value its content.)

A Harlingen, Texas newspaper, the Valley Morning Star (a Freedom Communications paper), has recognized this. Subscribers to the print edition will have free access to the online edition, but there is no more free online access. In a story in the paper explaining the changes, the paper’s publisher, Tyler Patton, said this: “The days of giving content away, which costs money to create and for which we charge our print subscribers, I think, are just over.”

Finally. But it’s not like online readers are getting ripped off. Online access will cost a mere 3.95/month.

Perhaps this is a shift in the way newspapers will be run — you can’t give away your product and expect to run a viable business for long. And the bottom line is this: If your content is good, people will pay for it. People will pay a premium for premium news products like the NYTimes or the Wall Street Journal. And if the product is poor, the same thing will happen as happens with any bad product — it will fail in the marketplace. And that’s OK.

Content has a value. And it’s exciting to see this recognized.

2017-06-07T18:25:54+00:00 July 14th, 2009|Blog|3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Allison July 14, 2009 at 11:31 am - Reply

    I totally agree. I give to NPR for the same reason, and I’d pay to access the NYT website if they charged a reasonable amount. My question is, how do they accomplish this so late in the game? For example, if the NYT starts charging will other sites or blogs that have paid for access just steal it for their readers like they do now, ala Huff Post? It’s hard to make people pay for anything online (hello, Limewire) so I wonder how they’ll be able to pull this off now that we’ve come to expect it for free.

  2. Carmelo July 14, 2009 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    I keep thinking to myself, “Is print dead?” and I can easily answer a loud NO. Time Magazine’s 1999 person of the year is Jeff Bezos. His company (Amazon.com) is worth 35 Billion, from selling books. Sure you can probably find those books on the Internet and download them for nothing.

    I know we are talking newspapers and I’m talking books, but here is my oranges to apples point. “It’s the packaging!”.

    Some people don’t even care about content, they care about the look and feel.

    I bet if newspaper companies created a cliff notes version with a neat cover on it and only sold it on Sundays, people would buy it. I can envision a whole strategy of using their advertisement ridden website for free content that was written “Cliff Hanger” style with an ad free cliff notes version of the paper that only sold on Sundays.

    There is also a specialized medium and subscription service that has already taken to consumers. The Amazon Kindle allows you to download ad-free newspaper content and magazines for a subscription.

    I do know that people still like reading the paper. Maybe they wash windows with it for streak free glass or keep their heads dry when its raining.

    That’s my $0.02

  3. Jake P July 15, 2009 at 9:08 am - Reply

    I felt absolutely guilty when I canceled our Arizona Republic subscription a year or so ago. I have friends that work(ed) there and I even wrote occasional freelance articles. But the problem was that the paper had gotten progressively scrawnier, with almost 100% AP and Reuters feeds that I was already seeing elsewhere. (Like you, my day starts with a news scan.)

    While I understand the business reasons that they did that, I don’t think they thought it through. By having almost no home-grown content, they have killed that paper. The Payson Roundup, with its quirky, small-town, poorly written but original articles, is more compelling!

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