Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First comment says it all....

More and more newspapers are going to what is called a "paywall" to try to make a profit online. The idea is that there is a wall set up beyond which you must pay to see what is behind it - sort of like a virtual zoo. Want to get in to see the animals? You must pay. Same with news content. You can get to the site - and maybe see some headlines - but without paying you can't read the real content.

Check out this story for some more about recent moves to paywalls. It is a growing trend.

However, the first comment under the story says it all about the consumer attitude toward online new content: "Meh. I can find my news elsewhere for free. I'm good, thanks."

I'm incredibly disappointed every time I hear that attitude. It's the No. 1 reason for the downfall of good journalism. How can the industry be sustained with that attitude?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Going all in!

Newspapers have been trying to figure out the online model for well over 15 years. I have worked at three newspapers that have basically failed in their attempts to move news online and make a sustainable profit: The Huron Daily Tribune, The News-Register and The Grand Rapids Press. I don't mean to pick on them; they are in the majority here. And I can personally attest to the growing pains at all three places as they tried to position the company to take advantage of the incredible profit potential..... which has yet to come to fruition.

Newspapers took their traditional model and tried to utilize the new tool - the internet. One major problem: People pay for internet access, but they are rarely willing to pay for content. So, how to make a profit?

How about advertising? Sounds like a nice plan, but it just hasn't proven to work out. Advertisers still pump most of their dollars into traditional media: TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc,.. The internet has grown, sure, but it hasn't settled into a model where a newspaper can afford to give away content free and remain profitable through the amount of available advertising.

Why all the struggles? One reason is surely that newspapers are trying to do it all. They want to be the traditional print news provider they have been for hundreds of years, while also serving the online population well. This has proven incredibly difficult to be all things to all people.

One major college newspaper, the Red and Black from University of Georgia, recently went all in with the online endeavor. The print edition is no more for this historically strong newspaper. Will it ever come back in print? We don't know. However, it's unlikely once this move has been made.

Check out the Red and Black and compare it to other college newspapers that are still trying to do both. Here are a few to check out: The State News from Michigan State, CM Life from Central Michigan University and The Torch from Ferris State University.

Is the Red and Black better? Is it noticeably different? Can you tell it has gone online only from the way the site is presented, material is provide and stories are told?