Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

25.1.10

How much is an online newspaper worth?

Robert Thomson, managing editor of News Corporation's The Wall Street Journal ponders the future of newspapers.

News Corporation's local offerings range from The Australian, a reasonably good broadsheet with a website that is near un-navigable, to Melbourne's Herald Sun, a sick parody of a tabloid overrun with tack, trash and typos.

Thomson wants to charge. But for what, and how?
Even at the Natural History Museum you generally have to buy a ticket to see the exhibits, and yet we are still having an angst-ridden argument over whether it is right to charge readers for all or some of our content online.
The problem is not that people want free news - the Herald Sun still sells half a million papers a day despite its Z-grade content. The problem is that the papers need their figures to sell advertising; if it's not circulation, it must be web visit figures, and they will drop if papers charge for online content. Thomson knows that only too well. Despite his impatience with angst-ridden arguments, Thomson is agonising over the issue, as is every publisher in the world.
Sites which are now free must re-examine the worth of their assets - their journalists, the connections to people of profile, their archive, their role as platforms - and think creatively about what is a premium experience, so that there is a real distinction in the mind of the reader.
Today's newspaper yields few 'premium experiences'. Every now and then I am glad I picked up a paper; often I throw it in the recycle bin threatening never to buy one again. An exception was a piece about John Cale in The Age last week; the story of a child, estranged by his social climber grandmother from his father because the latter was an English miner, who grew up to be a musician thanks to the encouragement of his mother. Now, there's a tale.

2 comments:

neil said...

I reckon there once was a time when premium meant something else, like extra good or special. These days it seems a euphemism for pay up.

kitchen hand said...

Exactly right, Neil.