Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
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Daily Archives: March 23, 2007
I’ve said it many times, but it’s worth repeating: Newspaper readers don’t pay for content. They never have. They pay for delivery. They won’t pay for newspaper content online because they’re already paying for delivery via their computer and their broadband fees.
I can’t see many newspaper.com managers who are growing significant revenue now with free content putting all of that at risk to experiment with a questionable pay model.
BTW: I think it displays the depth of Mr. Lazarus’s cluelessness about our industry that he apparently doesn’t even know who Dan Gillmor is.
There was “citizen journalist” Dan Gillmor letting me know that I got everything “almost precisely wrong” and that I sound “pathetically whiny.”
- Itâ€™s hard to conclude that TimesSelect is a success
- News has always been free, and always will be
- Readers have never paid for newspaper content
UPDATE: William Hartnett has an excellent take on Lazarus and his unwillingness to address the substantive criticism of his position by industry experts and instead dismiss his critics as opinionated bloggers. Continue reading
In essence, there’s just something special about that “play” button. The report found users click the “Playâ€?” button at considerably higher rates than they click image ads, and typically play those ads for two-thirds of their full lengths.
Online marketers should note the importance of getting their message across early on when creating videos. DoubleClick said most viewers stuck with the clips for two-thirds of their duration, meaning they typically watched about 19 seconds of each :30 video or 10 seconds of each :15 spot.
“It’s a mistake for advertisers to assume that all they should do is take their television ads and move them to the Internet,” he said. “I expect that the most effective video ads are the ones that compel the user to engage with them and initiate the advertising. Our clients are now mixed about whether their ads should play with or without user initiation… I think the best practice is to create the type of advertisements that users are going to request to see and initiate.”
OK, maybe it’s not wise to give video cameras to print journalists.
Earlier I mentioned that we’ve rented our house on a rent-to-own basis.
Here’s the interesting part of the story: Twice previously, I had placed placed rental ads on craigslist. In both cases, I mentioned our desire to do a rent-to-own arrangement. Prior to that, I had placed ads on craigslist for our FSBO effort. In total, the craigslist ads led to two flaky e-mails (not counting real estate agents). A month ago, we placed a week-long ad in The Bakersfield Californian, which included Bakersfield.com. It was a house-for-rent ad that included a line about rent to own. The result: more than 60 phone calls. Of those, we had at least five serious prospects.
Steve Outing writes often about how great craigslist is for him in Boulder.
So what’s the difference? Is it that houses of the kind I have are not a high appeal item to the craigslist audience? Is it that Craigslist in Bakersfield is intrinsically under performing? Or could TBC’s defensive measure of launching Bakotopia be paying some dividends?
I honestly don’t know the answer. But I think it’s important to note that craigslist isn’t unbeatable, isn’t unstoppable, and that newspaper classifieds still drive a tremendous amount of response.
Recruitment advertising has been hurt by online, but contrary to the dire predictions of industry analysts five or six years ago, the likes of Monster and Hot Jobs haven’t killed newspaper help wanted ads. In fact, I remember speaking with a couple of classified managers a couple of years ago who said they were hearing from advertisers who tried Monster but found it less effective in reaching qualified recruits than the newspaper-provisioned ad (which by that time always included online). Since the initial Monster scare, newspaper recruitment advertising has held steady, from what I hear.
I can’t say I’m optimistic about the future of newspaper classifieds (the single most important piece of newspaper revenue), but neither am I worried. The game isn’t over, and I don’t believe the killer app of online classifieds has been unrolled yet. I don’t know what online classifieds will look like in five years, but I don’t think there is a dominant model today. For all of the buzz around craigslist, it isn’t the category killer some pretend it is, nor is Monster, nor any of the dot com auto or real estate verticals.
The classified environment is turbulent, and certainly, newspapers will never again rule the kingdom as they once did, but I wouldn’t count newspapers out yet. The question is, can the business models, and business minds, adjust to lower volume, slower revenue growth and smaller margins? Continue reading
This means that about 217,000 online-only subscribers at the end of February were bringing the Times a potential $10.8 million in subscription revenue. Therefore it seems that the controversial TimesSelect pay-wall is starting to bear its fruits.
But lets put these numbers into perspective.
The New York Times Co. is expected to report $3.3 billion in revenue for 2007. Of that, about $350 million will come online.
So, TimesSelcect remains a drop in the bucket of overall revenue, and a mere three percent of online revenue.
Chainon says that since the Times went from a half-price subscription to a free subscription for .edu users just a couple of weeks ago, the number of .edu subscribers has tripled. What does that tell you about people’s resistance levels to paying for online content?
Vin Crosbie noted recently that the Times has gotten only 1.6 percent of its online audience to pay for TimesSelect. That’s not an impressive number.
As I write this, I haven’t yet found a report on NewYorkTime.com advertising revenue, but this report says that About.com did more than $6 million in advertising revenue in February and more than $7 million in January. As far as I can tell, About’s source of advertising revenue is banners and text links (visit the site and note: no banners on the home page). About is growing advertising revenue in excess of 20 percent.
About reports 44 million unique users per month, while the Time reports 13 million (PDF). The Times has other sources of online revenue besides banner and text ads (such as the verticals, real estate, autos and jobs), which accounts for a much higher multiple of revenue per unique user.
A straight comparison between the two sites isn’t possible, but clearly audiences on this scale generate significant opportunities to grow non-subscription revenue.
So the question becomes: How much money is TimesSelect costing the New York Times? The lost advertising revenue could potentially exceed $10 million annually. It’s hard to calculate for sure, but just in eyeballing it, it seems possible, if not probable. The disparity is certainly enough of a cautionary tale for other publishers considering pay models.
As I’ve noted in a number of previous posts: People don’t pay for content, except in unique circumstances. They pay for delivery. On the web, publishers have marginal delivery costs, and consumers are already bearing the financial burden of computer, modem and pipe. It’s going to be a battle to get readers to pay for general-interest content. I don’t see it working. Ever. Continue reading