Finding A New Model For News Delivery

Posted on 2/2/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Most newspaper and magazine publishers have recognized for some time that the handwriting is on the wall and the old business model where 80% of the cost of producing a newspaper or magazine was covered by advertising and 20% by subscriptions is no longer viable.

Now publications realize that in order to survive they must find a way to become less dependent on advertising and somehow charge readers more. They must also deal with more consumer demand for online delivery of information than has been traditionally delivered in print publications, constant update rather than once a day or once a week delivery, and the widely held expectation that online information should be free.

Around the world, publishers have already tested a variety of strategies. So far nothing has been found totally satisfactory. The A.H. Belo company that publishes the Dallas Morning News has been among the pioneers in trying to find a new model and are ready to launch a new option in mid-February. Their goal is to eventually reach a 50/50 split between advertising and reader contributions.

Currently, they give away a most of their content on their web site, but in the next few weeks they will implement a pay wall for “Subscriber Content”. Readers will still be able to see the local headlines, blogs, classified ads and non-proprietary information such as AP stories for free. But, if they want to see all that proprietary news and information developed by the newspaper’s news, sports and other journalists and they don’t have a print subscription then they’re going to have to pay for that information.

Today a seven-day-a-week print subscription to The Morning News costs $34.62 a month. Readers also have the option of going to and receiving – for free -- just about all the news and information the newspaper has to offer.

Under the new plan print subscribers will have full access to all digital and mobile platforms – all the newspaper publishes on all possible platforms -- for $33.95 a month. If the reader doesn’t want print, but just the eEdition, the web site Subscriber Content, plus iPad and iPhone apps will cost $16.95 a month. Those who are ready to give up paper can save half of the print subscription cost.

This experiment will be worth watching. Since the introduction of the iPad there has been a new willingness on the part of consumers to pay for digital information. And there are expected to be over 50 million digital tablets in circulation before the end of 2011. The question is whether enough print readers will be willing to switch to tablets, and whether the publication will be able to supply updates frequently enough, along with a variety of  features that can’t be found in a print product.

It seems to make sense not to try to charge for information that is either easily available from other free sources, and to only charge for the exclusive material generated by staff reporters. The question will be whether enough customers will feel that access to the exclusively produced material offers enough additional benefit to justify paying for it.

“We are confident that we are opening a new avenue for growth by providing unique, relevant local content on the platforms readers want, and creating highly targeted opportunities for advertisers to reach consumers,” John McKeon, the newspaper’s president and general manger told

A competing strategy called The Daily was launched today on the iPad by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. The publication will cost 99 cents per week, and the first two weeks are free courtesy of Verizon. Annual subscriptions will cost $39.99. News Corp. spent $30 million to prepare the publication for Wednesday's launch and it is not available in print.
A live demo of The Daily was conducted at a press briefing, showing off features like 360-degree photographs, interactive content, high definition video, and traditional newspaper staples like horoscopes, weather and crossword puzzles.

The central navigation experience is known as "the carousel," where stories are represented visually on tiles. Users can swipe through pages and sections with their fingertips, shuffle random unread stories, or have stories conveyed in audio and video formats.

Also demonstrated were the interactive elements of the sports section of The Daily, complete with customizable scores and stats for a reader's favorite teams. Even a team's "tweets" from Twitter can be integrated into a custom sports page.

The publication will be updated every morning, but more frequent updates will be possible throughout the day for breaking news or story updates.

Will print survive? Is the future digital only? Will either of these strategies work? What will content providers need to do to adapt?

Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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