While most newspapers are struggling to make money from their online editions, one Rhode Island paper, The Newport Daily News, has taken an iconoclastic step. It’s now offering home delivery of the paper for $145 a year. But if you want to access the paper on its web site, you need to shell out $345.
“Our goal was to get people back into the printed product,” publisher Albert K. Sherman, Jr. told the Nieman Journalism Lab. “That’s where the advertising revenues are, and it’s advertising that has historically been the life blood of American newspapers.”
The Nieman Journalism Lab is a project at Harvard University to figure out the future of quality journalism online.
It says the idea of charging more in a medium where news has been almost entirely free has raised a ruckus, as newspapers – large and small – consider erecting a pay wall around their online news.
The article dated June 8 that appeared on Lab’s site states that lots of newspapers are considering similar options. What makes Newport different is that they’re charging more to read the paper online than in print.
“The idea: Charge enough for the online content that the paper-and-ink product looks a lot more attractive. Don’t undercut your primary product with a free alternative that doesn’t make you money. And provide an online edition for those customers who have a compelling reason to pay for content,” the article said.
It makes sense, in fact. In a mad scramble to run online editions along with print, most newspapers are ignoring content quality, as they want to produce more content without increasing the number of people. It’s believed that this trend of free online news has caused a total turmoil in the media industry.
A few months ago, journalists expressed their views at the National Press Club forum at University of Missouri. They said news organizations are burning out reporters by demanding that they use more and more different types of technology to tell their stories. Yet there is scant evidence that this new technology is bringing in enough revenue to save journalism jobs and support the news business, they added. (Read: Journalists Feeling Depressed Under Tech Overload)
Let alone news organizations, even the overall online business has yet to stand properly on its own feet despite the persisting hype around it. Internet advertising revenues in the U.S. were just $5.5 billion for the first quarter of 2009, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Worse, the figure represents a 5% decline over the same period in 2008. (Read: Internet Advertising: From Slow to Slower)
Now, if news companies are deciding to sell news from their web sites, it’ll be good for the entire media ecosystem. And it can also provide much-needed strength to the struggling online market.