In the midst of a debate about free vs. paid for online content, here’s an interesting column to read: Look Mom, No Ads!
Scripps came up with the idea of the ad-free paper while in semi-retirement in California. He reasoned that a paper without advertising could give a “more honest account” of the news, the author says, and that if he could figure out a successful business model, it would be imitated by other publishers.
“He thought this was the greatest experiment that could be carried out in the history of journalism,” Stoltzfus adds.
One of my main themes in this debate has been: Readers have always paid for distribution, not content. But here was an attempt to get readers to pay for the whole shebang.
At a penny a pop.
And 22,000 papers, at most, we sold on any given day.
No word on whether the paper ever made any money, but given its short lifespan, it’s doubtful, but bless E.W. Scripps for trying.
This century-ago experiment, I don’t think, shed any light on whether readers will pay for general circulation news. This penny paper never caught on, but was because of the short staffing, the lack of promotion, or the poor circulation area. It’s probably all three, and more, but it’s hard to judge from this distance (and without reading the book).