Romenekso reports on comments by outgoing Cleveland editor Doug Clifton this way:
Doug Clifton, who is retiring today as Plain Dealer editor, says he hears at least once a day someone saying: “I don’t need the newspaper; I get my news from the Internet.” He reminds readers that the Internet doesn’t produce the content, it merely distributes it. “Newspapers will survive if readers pay them for their web content or if advertisers flock to newspaper websites in sufficient numbers to offset the revenue lost to the ink-on-paper enterprise. One or both of those options is likely to happen. If they don’t, newspapers – and the journalism they produce – could die.”
Yes, the Internet doesn’t produce news. But neither does newspaper. Or delivery trucks. Or paperboys. They all distribute it.
The choice isn’t between breaking with tradition and start charging for news (because it’s always been free to readers) and getting more advertising (and more for advertising). The only real choice is advertising. And the only way advertising is going to pay the bills is to get more online readers. And that isn’t going to happen if we start charging for content.
Please, let’s stop talking about how to bilk our readers and concentrate on building web sites they’ll want to make a habit. My question for Mr. Clifton is what contribution has he made to that end?
(NOTE: In context, Mr. Clifton makes a impassioned and worthy plea to readers to see the value of great journalism. Rather than platitudes taken from journalistic hymn book, he offers real examples of why professional journalism is important. That said, its our responsibility to make journalism pay, not the readers. If we believe in journalism, we will find a way to succeed within the realities of the market. If not, we will perish. We can’t count on our readers to save us. We must save ourselves. Every journalist has a responsibility to contribute to the task.)
[…] Responding to another journalist, Doug Clifton, retiring editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, making the case for paid content, Howard Owens, says: The choice isnâ€™t between breaking with tradition and start charging for news (because itâ€™s always been free to readers) and getting more advertising (and more for advertising). The only real choice is advertising. And the only way advertising is going to pay the bills is to get more online readers. And that isnâ€™t going to happen if we start charging for content. […]
BtoB magazine lists the Wall Street Journal as the top advertising avenue for btob marketers. Past others like USA Today with higher audiences and “free news.” Granted we’re not talking business-to-consumer marketing but if the WSJ’s plan to charge is all wrong, why is it still a premiere advertising venue? How have they managed to have both their readers and advertisers pay? B/c of the value of what they produce. Frankly, I think saying we pay only for news distribution is like saying when we buy stuff at Target we’re only paying for the costs of their supply chain. Nothing is free.
If you’ve followed my writing on this topic, you would know that I’ve always segmented out premium content. WSJ is premium content. There have always been B2B newsletters that have succeeded with no advertising and substantial subscription fees.
One reason they get away with it, besides providing content that business people think they need to make money (and maybe even actually returning a good ROI), is that most of these subscriptions are paid for with corporate credit cards or otherwise expensed. That makes collecting subscription fees much, much easier.
That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking general interest newspapers. No consumer has EVER paid for that content. They don’t pay for it on TV, on radio and they don’t pay for it in print.
Your analogy with Target doesn’t hold water. A product at Target is a tangible good. News and information isn’t tangible. The paper is, but not the news. There’s no paper online.
Bingham says papers will move to Internet
“Bingham, a journalist, photographer and filmmaker, was speaking as UK’s 30th annual Joe Creason lecturer. The event, sponsored by the UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications, is named for a former journalist who spent most of his career as a reporter and columnist for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, a paper Bingham’s family once owned.”
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