by George Heymann

Media business changes create opportunities!

The widely held premise on the impending demise of the newspaper industry reminds me of the Mark Twain quote: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” I recently attended a newspaper teleconference hosted by Larry Maynard, a 40-year newspaper and advertising executive, that brought this canard into sharp focus.

Our industry has a proven track record of successfully facing outside media challenges and thriving, Maynard said.

“In the 1930s it was radio, the 1950s it was the launch of broadcast television, in the 1980s the expansion of cable TV. The 1990s welcomed the internet.

“In the past three years Linked In, Facebook, My Space, Twitter and something new that is being developed today as we speak.”

There are still significant challenges presented by the Internet but these challenges are not unique to the print industry. I believe part of the solution is embracing the challenges as opportunities instead of problems.

This is only a small part of the solution, but an important one. One obstacle is that the traditional print business model doesn’t currently translate to online. So the question remains, how do you monetize your content online?

Recently there was a stir at The New York Times over an iPad application, the Pulse News Reader. The reader was developed by Stanford University Institute of Design graduate students Akshay Kothari 23, and Ankit Gupta, 22. The students developed the $3.99 app as part of a Stanford Launch iPad class in which the students must develop and introduce a product as part of the course in just 10 weeks.

The Pulse iPad application is a news reader that which allows you import a host of freely available RSS feeds to create a custom page of your favorite websites. RSS is a standardized format used to publish frequently updated websites such as news sites and blogs. Pulse is my news reader of choice on the iPad as it allows access to your favorite feeds by just typing in the address and also enables easy import your Google Reader RSS feeds by logging into your Google account from within the application and selecting the feeds you want to add to the reader, a real time saver.

RSS readers have been around for a long time, so why the objection to Pulse? One raised by the Times is that “The Pulse News Reader app makes commercial use of the and RSS feeds, in violation of their terms of use. Thus, the use of our content is unlicensed. The app also frames the and websites with other content around the edges, in violation of their respective terms of use.”

The other problem is that the app presents users with the ability to see a “sanitized, text-only” version of articles that strips everything from the content of the host website including advertising. It also lets people share articles through the apps Twitter and Facebook link, instead of the links provided by each news site. With similar features being introduced by web browsers, there continue to be more questions than answers for many content creators on the web.

I’m in a unique position here at the Chieftain in that I both work for a news organization and also blog. I’m both a content producer and consumer. I understand that users want the option to consume media by methods of their choosing, without restrictions. I know I do. But the reality is there is substantial cost to producing the content we all consume, so how best do media companies move forward with this opportunity?

I discussed this with Chieftain Managing Editor Steve Henson, who said, “ There is a myth that Internet content is free. For example, if you use Orbitz to pay for travel, it’s a bit higher than if you went to the individual airlines’ web pages.

“Newspapers cannot continue to give away content. It’s great for the reader, but there’s no business model for it. There is insufficient advertising revenue to pay for the reporting, editing, etc.

“My own prediction is that within five years, newspapers online will be a headlines service, where you will need to pay a small fee for additional in depth information.”

I spend a great deal of time online and have given this some thought. Such a presentation would be much preferred to a subscription-only, “pay to enter” model or some other similar paywall strategy.

Behind the Paywall

I enjoy the ability to visit multiple news sites like the Chieftain, WSJ, NYT, Washington Post or USA Today, but wouldn’t do so if I had to pay a separate subscription for each site I visit. But If I could get the headlines and basic information for every story, I wouldn’t mind paying a nickle or a dime to read “the rest of the story” if it was of interest.

I would also like to see websites adopt a common secure online payment method (like PayPal, or Googles’ recently announced micro-payment system, Newspass) so that I don’t have to have a separate account for each site I visit. What do you think? What would you prefer?

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3 Responses

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