This is a decidedly unpolitical post, but a thought struck me over the weekend that I think is worth consideration. Maybe the attention given to Rupert Murdoch’s recent decision is what caused the thought:
Is Rupert Murdoch bluffing? Making a bold high-stakes gamble that will save the troubled newspaper industry? Or pursuing a pipe dream that can only end in failure?
The News Corp. chairman has prompted a fierce debate among media watchers with his accusation that Google is “stealing” from his vast newspaper empire and his threat to block the search engine from accessing its content.
Personally, I don’t see this strategy working. There are just too many sources of information. Basic information have become commodities (i.e. weather, sports scores, classifieds, catastrophes, etc). Does that mean news organizations are going to go away? I don’t think so. People still crave and need news, especially local news. But, as the continued closures of local news organizations have made clear, the current model is broken.
I used to be a dead tree news subscriber. However, I haven’t been for at least two years now, but I do still peruse the Albuquerque Journal daily. Well, at least I did. Now, it’s becoming more difficult because I’m finding I’ve often “used up my sponsor pass trials for the week.” So, what do I do when I’m presented with the option to pay $60 to become a six month subscriber? Naturally, I go elsewhere to get my news fix for the day.
See, the offer is out of sync with the action. I want to read a particular article. I don’t want to spend $60 to get access to all of the articles for six months that I’m not interested in reading. What if the ABQ Journal allowed me to pay for just that particular article? Would I do it? Probably depends on the price. But, if that article only cost me a dime to read. I’d probably do it.
In fact, if the Journal allowed me to pay $10 for credits that I could apply toward reading articles of my choice at a dime a pop (think: iStock.com approach to news), I’d probably be all over it. After all, a dime is still a small enough amount of money for me not to think twice about spending.
So why don’t they do it this way? I don’t know. Actually, very little about how the Albuquerque Journal approaches sales makes any sense to me. Consider for a moment that if I want to sign up for home delivery, they’ll charge me $60 for six months. But, if I want to sign up for six months of eJournal, it will cost me $76.50. Where is the logic in that? In what world does it cost more to deliver digitally than it does to deliver hard copy to my door?
My first job when I was 12 years old was delivering newspapers. Within a few months, I became the drop captain for all of the newspaper boys in my neighborhood. This meant a couple hundred newspapers were dropped at my house every morning, and at the end of the week, after they had collected from their customers, the newspaper boys came and paid me. I had my own delivery route, plus I made a little extra for taking on this added responsibility.
Paying a small amount weekly is an easier commitment to make. Heck, the smaller the amount the more likely we are to pay. News is an impulse buy. If you think about the heyday of the newspaper industry, hawkers selling papers on street corners for just a few cents, you’ll realize that it has always been an impulse buy.
Consider something else…
What’s the largest newspaper of the week? The Sunday paper, right? Yet, every online information source will tell you that attention to news drops significantly over the weekend. The next generation of news followers take a break on the weekends. Why isn’t the biggest edition of the news on Monday? Because they’re still doing business like they did in the past.
The Albuquerque Journal better figure out what it is doing wrong and soon, or we’re going to find ourselves in a situation that the largest city of the state doesn’t have a local newspaper reporting style source of information.