This was recently featured in Editor & Publisher. Read this, and then you will understand my rant.
Giving away your product, unless your product is mass distribution printed newspaper, is a death sentence for local news.
How someone with this message is still considered an expert is beyond me. Giving away content, acting as if what we do doesn’t have value, and relying on advertising alone is exactly what got this industry in trouble in the first place. That along with hedge-fund ownership.
Was this guy living in a hole for the last 20-years? If giving away quality content for free and living off the advertising it realizes worked, wouldn’t newspapers be in a better spot than they are now?
The writer acts as if all these newspapers in the 1990s didn’t have quality writing and reporting, “an audience,” when they made all their websites free to read in the first place. There is a reason people are realizing news costs money. The advertising alone won’t support local reporting.
The sooner we realize this as an industry, the better. My audience can be 100 percent in Newton, Kan., and the advertising can still not be enough to pay for the news. The Lawerence Journal-World has one of the most iconic news attractions in the world in its backyard (Kansas Jayhawk Basketball), and they can’t generate enough revenue off clicks on their website to make it work. They get traffic from around the globe, and they can’t make it work, so why does this guy think I can from Newton?
Truth is, if you are going to make it in this world, you are going to have to charge–unless you have a free print paper and live off distribution, but even those are tougher every day, as I can attest with our free Hillsboro Free Press.
That paper has a thin margin for success, and it’s a lot of work to make sure it’s still breathing fresh air, even with all our audience.
In the end, this guy’s argument is that our audience can’t afford $5 a month to buy quality, local news, so instead, we should be able to sell this amazing, cash-strapped audience to folks who want them to buy stuff…