For the past few years, I’ve been fascinated by the way classic newspapers handled the shift to the internet. Most of them handled it poorly and thought that simply copying / pasting their paper news would make it online… Their business model is broken, profits are thin and they still don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
What will happen to the old media?
This is where the problem stands; once you go online, any newspaper is as important as any other blogger. In fact, some bloggers are way bigger than some newspapers! This is where the problem is; there is no more entry barrier to publish content. I remember that when I was young, I wanted to become a writer. While growing, I realize how it was difficult to live from writing and decided to head toward the financial industry to assure a comfortable retirement.
In order to write; you needed an editor or a job as a journalist. Then, your destiny was held by a handful of major players. If you didn’t make the cut, writing for the local newspaper wouldn’t be as lucrative. But these days have changed as anybody with a strong personality and the ability to write can setup their blog for less than $100 per year. They can publish and share their stories with no marketing budget and they can even make money without having to setup a distribution network across the country.
Old media thought they would simply open their “dot com” window on the internet and occupy the same space they have in the “real world”.
The competition on the internet is as close to fair as it can get. We all have the same medium and it doesn’t require any background nor massive funding to start a website. This is why old media doesn’t compete against 5-6 major competitors but several hundred thousand bloggers without papers. Basically, anybody with an opinion can be a competitor.
The journalist by trade who is sitting in the same chair for the past 30 years now has to wake-up; anybody can pick-up “his” seat and he won’t even know it. Survival of the fittest; your experience and number of years worked at the same place won’t save you from the guy next door without any background or paper!
The first thought old Media had when they noticed a drop in their revenues was to charge for their content. We saw it with the Wall Street Journal at first, and more locally, the Globe & Mail is now charging to read full content online. I’m not too sure that it’s the right way to approach this new evolution in the industry.
On the one hand, not all newspapers charge for their content. Therefore, you better have a hell of an offer to charge readers. If they think they can read similar articles elsewhere for free, you won’t get many subscriptions. At the same time, you still have tons of specialized/niche sites covering the same topics for free as well.
I’m not convinced charging for content is the right answer. I think it’s a Band Aid on an open wound. The whole business model needs to be changed. Charging for content or posting an avalanche of ads will not solve the problem. Readers are looking for free and useful content – not a Nascar newspaper full of ads.
As long as old Media heads towards the classical way of making money with news, they will walk on the path to the cemetery.
I think there are others options traditional newspapers could use to make money online and survive the internet wave. I’m not a guru of any kind and don’t pretend I hold the key to success online. However, I believe there are different ways to make money online without upsetting readers.
Newspapers have 2 major strengths they should use to their benefit;
#1 They already have an audience.
#2 Google likes them and it’s easy for them to rank in the search engines.
Therefore, they already have the 2 things we, as bloggers, fight for since day one! This is how they could easily insert one or two “profitable” articles in their edition each day. These articles will be SEO optimized and include different type of advertising. It could be Adsense or affiliate links if the writer liked a product and recommends it. There is obviously a risk where the journalist may or may not cross the line of integrity by recommending a product with a commission attached to it.
Conspiracy theory fanatics will see the loophole and scream. But we already have the same issue with other bloggers anyways. Is Pat Flynn writing about Blue Host because he truly loves their hosting service or because he makes over $20,000 per month through his affiliate commission? Who cares??? I bought my hosting with Blue Host because I trust Pat, period. So why wouldn’t it be the same thing with your favourite columnist?
With such a large audience, there is definitely a place for side products such as info products, ebooks, paid newsletters for specific information. I think the main platform should remain free, but additions could be charged to readers. People are craving for more valuable info on what they search for. Since old Media has the resources, time and money to create side products, they seem to be in the perfect position to do it.
Once they track their traffic, they can see what are their most popular topics and columnists. Then, they can easily create products targeted to this audience.
Not too long ago, there was a big launch made by a French newspaper called La Presse. I actually like reading La Presse for free on my laptop and also on my iPad. A few months ago, they launched an app called La Presse +. At first, I wasn’t too convinced about the idea. I just thought that, once again, big media was wasting their money on a marketing exercise.
But now that I’ve gone through the app several times, I can tell you that I simply love it! The content is fun to read because you have more colors, images and they even include videos! Therefore, it’s more than a blog, it’s more than a newspaper and it’s even more than a TV show!
The only thing missing on this app is probably the ability to comment on any news live and discuss it with other readers. However, it has clearly changed the way I read a newspaper. Even if you don’t read French, just download the app to see how it works. It’s clearly amazing. I wonder if there is an equivalent in English, do you know any app like this one?
I am asking you, what is going to happen to old media? Are they going to die and other internet giants will create more content? It has already started… what’s next?
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