New Revenue Model To Save Print

Posted on 2/17/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Most print publications have recognized for some time that the handwriting is on the wall and the old business model for newspapers in particular where 80% of the cost of producing a newspaper was covered by advertising and 20% by subscriptions is no longer viable. To a large extent magazine publishers have the same problem.

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 the demand for more information online than print publications have traditionally delivered. And the online information needs to be constantly updated rather than once a day or once a week. On top of all this, publications must find a way to deal with the widely held customer expectation that online information should be free.

Around the world, publisher have already tested many strategies and so far nothing has been found totally satisfactory. The A.H. Belo company, publisher of the Dallas Morning News, has been among the pioneers in trying to find a new model that combines digital and print. Recently they launched another version of their print and digital offering which is being watched closely by many publications around the world. The company’s goal is to eventually reach a 50/50 split between advertising and reader revenue contributions.

Until recently the company give away a most of its content on its web site ( The new version branded “Subscriber Content” allows readers to still see the local headlines, blogs, classified ads and non-proprietary information such as AP stories online for free. But, if the reader wants 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, they must pay for that information.

Previously, a seven-day-a-week print subscription to The Morning News costs $34.62 a month and the eEdition was thrown in for free. Now, print subscribers have full access to all digital and mobile platforms – whatever the newspaper publishes on whatever platforms -- for $33.95 a month. If the customer doesn’t want print, but just the eEdition  “Subscriber Content” plus the iPad and iPhone apps the cost is $16.95 a month. Thus, those who think paper is passé can save half of the print subscription cost and just subscribe to the digital services.

Since the introduction of the iPad there has been a new willingness to pay for digital information, and before the end of 2011 there is expected to be over 50 million digital tablets in circulation worldwide. But a number of questions remain.
    1 - Will the publication be able to supply updates frequently enough, and enough other features that can’t be found on the print product, to attract users?
    2 – How will readership balance out between those who get the paper and those who go full digital?
    3 – How much do readers really care about the enterprise content written by the newspaper’s journalists or will many be satisfied with headlines and wire service stories they can still get for free?
    4 – Will some readers hang onto the print subscriptions just to receive the weekly advertising supplements?

    5 – Will overall circulation finally begin to increase?
    6 – If print circulation declines how much will ad rates have to be cut?
This is definitely an experiment worth watching.

John McKeon, the newspaper’s president and general manger said, “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.”

The Daily

Another digital strategy that doesn’t include a print option is also worth following closely. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation’s launched The Daily in early February. This publication is delivered exclusively on the iPad. Subscriptions costs $0.99 per week or $39.00.

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:  


  • Fred Voetsch Posted Feb 17, 2011
    Just like stock photographers these newspapers need to think outside the printing press and find better ways to provide valuable content to their customers.

    They could do more to encourage locals to contribute content from local events and they could encourage local small businesses, independent artists, etc to offer freebies or samples, which would provide unique content, help build the reputation of those artists or businesses and would create a path for them to become future advertisers when they see how being a part of the local newspaper brings in business.

    The problem, much as we see among stock photographers, is that they once had a good thing and are unwilling to change unless forced to.

  • John Harris Posted Feb 18, 2011
    They are thinking "outside the printing press" but this thinking is predicated on is cheap deals from monopoly suppliers (to which you seem to want to add freebies from locals). One of the difficulties seldom mentioned is that even where day to day newspaper production is profitable, the huge debts taken on (and leveraged off) to finance consolidations & acquisitions push them into loss. News photographers have been forced to accept much reduced remuneration- for what is a large part of the content but a small part of the budget- to help pay for this, lowering production values and further reducing sales... Even with the massive potential savings of "no printing" publishers are now so used to pictures being dirt cheap it is hard to see the Ipad changing the mindset...

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