Newspapers rethinking the idea of subscribers

Newspapers, like television stations, are feeling the effects of Hurricane New Media, and the subsequent challenging of their assumptions is bringing forth some innovative concepts. In a thoughtful and insightful article in Newspapers & Technology, Jim Chisholm writes of the unthinkable.

For many newspapers, revenues flowing from subscription and single-copy sales fall far short of the cost of distribution and marketing.

Subscription canvassing costs are often written off over years, with high costs of fulfillment and follow-up.

My examination of newspapers’ profit-and-loss statements suggests that many publishers could consider a shift from a paid-for model with high operational costs to a free model where an audience of greater value to advertisers can be reached at a fraction of the costs.

Econometric models are essential, but available, to evaluate the viability and risk of such a strategic shift…

Another factor that separated successful newspapers from many others is that they enjoy a culture of shared responsibility.

Journalists, circulation and advertising staff all work closely together with common beliefs and a commitment to help each other improve the business.

Our industry — worldwide — continues to suffer from compartmentalization and internal frictions. Interestingly, such integration is the norm in the new generation of free daily newspapers. Workers at these newspapers see their readers as customers and see their role as satisfying these customers’ needs.

What a concept — readers (viewers) as customers. Newspapers aren’t alone in their compartmentalization and internal frictions.

But the idea that newspapers are actually weighing the benefits of “free” circulation should be a lesson to us all that there are NO sacred cows in the media revolution that’s underway. None.

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