Can Googles upcoming eReader, the iPad or the new Kindle really save a Newspaper?

–  Not if they continue treating them like they have print, web, and mobile.

2009 is a year that most of us want to block out of our minds forever?

If we look at the past four years of Newspaper print advertising you will see a 47% decline ($47 Billion to $24 Billion). The year 2009 was the worst since the Great Depression, Magazines have seen major declines as well. 2010 is looking to be a much better year already. However, there still seems to be no hope of a total rebound.

Now more than ever Newspapers and Magazines are turning towards interactive media to offset the lost revenue. However, most are still using the old-school traditional revenue models that got them into the predicament in the first place.

Take a leader in the industry like the Wall Street Journal. They carried over the traditional print model over to the iPad. Look below at the price breakdown. Does this really make sense?

Wall Street Journal charges:

  • $8.62 a week for
  • $11.66 a month for a print subscription that is delivered to your door.
  • $18 a month is what they are planning to charge for the iPad edition. I sure hope it comes with some buzz and whistles for that price.

My point of view: 10 things to consider

  1. iPhone and iPad apps offer new revenue streams, but they will not save the industry. At least not anytime soon so don’t focus exclusively on them to the point where you drop what has been working.
  2. Local newspapers should not be following in the tail lights of the Financial Times, the New York Times or the Wall Street. Their models will not transfer to a local Newspaper.
  3. Forget what you know, it’s not working. Look towards sites outside of Newspaper industry to find revenue models that work.
  4. Don’t forget about mobile. Very few Newspapers or Magazines offer a worthwhile product on traditional mobile devices, smart phones/iPhone. These are established mediums that reach mass audience today.
  5. Don’t bank on one eReader device. Figure out ways to be device agnostic. Focusing on exclusively on one over the other might leave you behind. This should not be about Betamax or VHS.
  6. Do not try to focus on every new eReader. Have your content and advertising in an agnostic format so that it can be delivered to any device with some help from the tech guys. – Today most Newspapers/Magazines produce and store their content in ways that makes it very hard to deliver to any device or b2b partner.
  7. Focus on high value content/exclusive content. Trying to be to general with your content no longer works.
  8. Web, Print eReaders should all cross promote each other. Each should have unique pieces. Pumping the same content in each will only make them compete with each other.
  9. There is good and there is good enough. Know the difference because while you are tweaking a product to perfection, someone else is already out there making money.
  10. STOP focusing on walled gardens. Do focus on exclusive paid products.

Why not try something different?

I don’t have the answers but I do have some ideas that people who are smarter than me should consider, tweak and try. Below are a few paid product ideas versus a true walled garden model.

6 Paid models that should be considered

  1. Offering content that is highly targeted for the end user. Versus what they get in print or can find somewhere else online for free.
  2. Warning radical idea: Why not offer a free eReader with a 2 year subscription that offsets the cost of the reader, maybe it even comes with a Sunday print edition. – Worked for cable and satellite companies.
  3. Offer a product with exclusive content* and offer a high end eReader experience that people would pay for.
  4. Have a free product that teases highly exclusive content/niche content with more bells and whistles for a small monthly fee or a onetime fee.
  5. Free version but some of the exclusive content* has been embargoed. The free user will still get 100% of the content but select pieces have been held back for a few days.
  6. Free product is only updated once a day or maybe think about day parting again. Upgrade the paid product and you will get it 3 hours earlier and up to the minute updates.

*Exclusive content means: Original content that can’t be found on the web for free.

More soon, next I want to talk about Advertising.


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One thought on “Can Googles upcoming eReader, the iPad or the new Kindle really save a Newspaper?

  1. So, this invites a conversation about what companies like Hearst are up to with the Skiff. Further, it invites a deeper conversation about what is happening to the funding of newsrooms across the nation. Newsroom staffs are being slashed, news writing is being outsourced, syndicated feeds are replacing quality in-depth on-site reportage and true investigative journalism is becoming extinct, at least as practiced by the larger news organizations.

    So, yeah. Truly. Do Big Media really believe that e-readers are going to save their butts — or even help them outside the digerati hype wave that will serve them for a menopausal hot flash? What about enhanced business models? What about the concept of DIVESTING themselves from their monopolistic structures instead of trying to force through more and more consolidation legislation? Big Media needs to engage in RADICAL thinking before the TRUE RADICALS take it down, piece by piece. Because it’s old. Because it sucks. Because it’s necrotic. Because it’s sclerotic. The survivors will be the followers of Andre Williams: Agile, Mobile and HOSTILE.

    Right on, Justin, regarding your emphasis on device agnosticism, etc. But I will say this: that which worked for the cable co’s way back (e.g. free set top boxes) might not work again. That was 40, 30, 20, 10 years ago: the scene was much different then; the barrier to entry and access was much higher. The paradigm may have shifted too far by this point for that to matter with the ubiquity of portable devices that are web enabled.

    Great blog.

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