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The Media The Almighty Buck

Paid Online News Venture Fails To Get Subscribers 126

Posted by timothy
from the it-seemed-different-on-paper dept.
Ian Lamont writes "The idea of migrating people from free online news content to paid subscriptions has been dealt a blow. A venture meant to fill the void left by the print Rocky Mountain Times has attracted 3,000 subscribers — just 6% of its original goal of reaching 50,000 paid subscribers by Thursday. InDenverTimes.com is currently free, but the plan was to have gated premium content starting next month for a $5/month subscription. The project has entrepreneurial backing and articles from journalists who used to work for the print-focused Rocky Mountain News, which closed last month. However, a lack of paying subscribers and low online ad rates means that the venture might have to scale back its ambitions."
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Paid Online News Venture Fails To Get Subscribers

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  • Not the Times (Score:5, Informative)

    by Laser_47 (234412) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @04:51PM (#27694809)

    It was the Rocky Mountain News that shut down...

  • oblig. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Icegryphon (715550) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @04:56PM (#27694863)
    I am just going to leave this here. Clicky [youtube.com]
    • by Jason Earl (1894)

      I wish I had mod points. That clip was pure awesome.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by David Gerard (12369)
      That's fantastic! And not hideously technically inaccurate, which amazed me.
    • Wow, the one interviewee even had the caption "Home Computer Owner" under his name!

      And 2 hours ($10.00) to download a text-only edition. How far we have come.

    • Re:oblig. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 5of0 (935391) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @11:21PM (#27698047) Homepage
      Best quote from the piece:
      "This is only the first step in newspapers by computer. Engineers now predict the day will come when we get all our newspapers and magazines by home computer, but that's a few years off. So for the moment at least, this fellow [showing an elderly newspaper street vendor] isn't worried about being out of a job."
      They were about 30 years off of their "a few years" estimate, but it is still eerie actually hearing such a prediction from nearly three decades ago voiced by a newsperson.
  • by timster (32400) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @04:56PM (#27694867)

    It's been almost a law of Internet content for a while. If you charge for content and lock it down, you can make some money here and there, but almost all the time you'll make more overall if you don't charge, attract way, way more readers, and sell ads. Of course, making "more" doesn't mean you'll be making "much", but so it goes.

    • by fictionpuss (1136565) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @05:02PM (#27694937)

      If you can't link directly to it - it's pointless; if you can direct link - why pay for it?

      Eventually the over-valuation of old media forms will rebalance to make web-ads more viable.. then "more" could be "much".. question though is when?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Things are only going to get worse for newspapers. First they were replaced by TV and the internet for raw reporting, as by the time they reported anything it was literally yesterday's news. Their response was to do more opinion pieces, interpreting and discussing news.

        Now even that has been replaced by the internet (blogs in particular) and 24 hour news channels. Classifieds all moved to Craigslist, readership went down and advertising went down with it. The only area they can hang on to is convenience, be

    • by Murpster (1274988)
      Remember back in the day when having a .com email address meant you were an internet leper to be mocked? "Companies?? On the internet? Go away assholes!" God I miss that.
    • by siddesu (698447)

      Well, from the looks of it, there is no big change from the traditional "content" production, as it was known through the centuries.

      There ain't no such thing as free lunch, and in the end, someone's paying. For better or worse, the end consumers of the product will be getting what they are paying for. For some things, like scientific information, "free" model will probably work out great. For other things, like information from which one can directly derive profit, that will mean paid services. For news, co

      • by camg188 (932324)
        It may mean that television news will dominate. They are already producing stories to air and will continue to do so. It is relatively simple to supply that already produced news content online.
        • by PylonHead (61401)

          I heard an interview with Sam Donaldson on NPR a couple of weeks ago.

          He pointed out that, outside of doing interviews and covering press conferences, TV news relies on newspapers to research and break stories that the TV guys then cover.

          So we're still screwed.

    • by pileated (53605) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @05:21PM (#27695153)

      Except 'selling ads' doesn't work and it doesn't come close to the amount of money made from print ads. That, and the tremendous problems that the current recession has brought to newspapers, is why they're considering charging for access. This venture is a bit different in that it's trying to replace a failed print paper not augment one.

      Opinions go back and forth on this and most of them are not unbiased. Tell certain people that you have to charge for online news and they'll call you a Luddite who lives in the past, chases already failed dreams, etc. But I think most people who know anything about the industry and its economics know that online news is not a winning economic proposition, particularly if it is funded by ads. Those who believe that it is a winning model have to assume that things will change drastically after the recession. No one really knows but I suspect that they won't and this has been a foolish business strategy.

      Nor is news free. In fact there is talk now of getting most print based web sites to coordinate the change to subscription. Thus you go from 'all the news is free' to 'no news is free.' People who say the news is free are idiots. It takes a tremendous amount of work and money to cover the news in a substantive way. And this has nothing to do with ideology. It costs the same for both left and right leaning papers. So news may seem free but it isn't. There is a large cost and for it to continue someone has to pay for it. In any case print papers are finally realizing that they are losing readers, and perhaps advertisers, because there is this thought that news is free and that it doesn't make sense to pay for a print newspaper.

      They thought they might counter this with online sites and make up the lost money in online advertising. That didn't happen. So in this recession, with many papers filing for bankruptcy protection they have to consider all options, including pay sites. This would make little sense if people can get the news they want free elsewhere. But if all newspapers institute the same policy things might change. Newspapers know it is a huge gamble. But so is bankruptcy.

      • by Sun.Jedi (1280674)

        Except 'selling ads' doesn't work

        Agreed. If I can block them, which I do at home, and my company's web filter conveniently does for me at work, then they are a waste of time and bandwidth.

        • 60% of consumers are willing to browse with an ad-blocker in return for free videos, music and other content, a survey has revealed. "This willingness to pretend to view adverts in exchange for free content is good news for sites wanting to lie to advertisers," said Tudor Aw at KPMG, "and is perhaps a pointer in the ongoing debate over whether lying to advertisers or lying to subscribers is the right revenue model."

          40% of respondents said they would pretend to accept popups, popunders, interstitials, Phorm, floating windows zipping and swooping about the screen, Flash videos that start playing sound automatically, eye-gouging animations and 2o7.net cookies in exchange for free music. 16% said they would pay to avoid ads. The rest would continue to get their telly from BitTorrent and browse with Mozilla Firefox with AdBlock.

          People were more willing to pay on mobile phones, unless they had a modern phone that could steal someone's WiFi connection.

          Google, the world's largest online advertising agency, said it was looking into tastefully-interspersed direct content advertising and brand placement, and added that you should PUNCH THE MONKEY TO WIN £20,000!!! [today.com] "If you know what's good for you."

      • by NotBorg (829820) * on Thursday April 23, 2009 @06:18PM (#27695855)

        They thought they might counter this with online sites and make up the lost money in online advertising.

        They might make more money from ads if they could get people to stop blocking them.

        Flashing high contrast colors, telling users they're infected, blasting users back 10 feet with unexpected audio, waiting excessively longer to view a page with ads, spyware... fuck I could go on for days. Many people don't even trust ads enough to even click on them when something looks interesting.

        Three most pushed buttons on your remote? ch-up, ch-down, mute. Making your ads 10 times louder didn't get them heard. It got them muted. When I need to make a collect call? I hit 0. I hate those ads so fucking much.

        Someone needs to man up and say... no I won't run your ad because it gets us blocked. Sorry you can't run that ad on EZFM 106... its what makes people use mp3 players exclusively in their cars. Sorry we think this ad sucks so bad that it causes people to ch-up/down or mute. Sorry your ad suck so bad that even honest citizens are turning to torrents.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by benjamindees (441808)

          I try to be tolerant of website ads. The closest I've come to using an ad blocker is to edit my hosts file to send particularly buggy ad providers to the bitbucket. But I finally broke down and reinstalled Flashblock a few weeks ago. You're right that sites need to start filtering ads for quality. It's just too annoying when a flash ad starts blaring noise at me as soon as I open a webpage. And while I am actually quite pleased with how unobtrusive the ads are on ABC.com, I noticed that NBC.com uses th

        • by ukyoCE (106879)

          Exactly. The thing is, the content sellers CAN control this! A company I used to work for had ads getting flashier and gaudier, and the marketing head actually stood up and said "Ok, this is ridiculous and tacky. We need to put some rules in writing and start vetoing ugly/obnoxious advertisements".

          Bad advertisements lose customers, which then lost advertising dollars. Companies need to start paying attention to this, instead of greedily grabbing at the first tacky flashing obnoxious ad dollar that comes

      • by antic (29198)

        Why do you think selling ads doesn't work?

        Or do you mean selling a certain type of ad (annoying ones, for one thing)?

        I doubt ad blockers are used by a majority of people. And statistics on the web are better than they are in newspapers. While the current economic climate is impacting spending, businesses will always need to reach their targets. Anyone hosting eyeballs (popular websites) will have the option to capitalise on that.

        IMO, the money being spent on advertising in newspapers and radio will graduall

        • by pileated (53605)

          I'm replying to a number of people here who asked why I say that selling ads doesn't work. It's strictly financial. How much are advertisers willing to pay to place advertisements on web pages? Not nearly enough numerous recent studies have shown. It has little to do with what users do with the ads - block them, click them or whatever. Web sites make money by selling ads to advertisers. If advertisers won't pay enough for them then sites don't make money. In particular they make little money in comparison t

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Except 'selling ads' doesn't work and it doesn't come close to the amount of money made from print ads. But declining print ad revenue is what ultimately did in the print edition of the Rocky Mountain News. For years they fought a circulation and ad war with the Denver Post, with both sides cutting subscription rates and ad costs to steal readers and advertisers from each other. The News blinked first, when their losses cornered them into a "joint operating agreement" with the Post to forestall closing up y

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        The problem with internet advertising is not so much that rates are lower, but that it is more evenly distributed. 20 years ago if you wanted to advertise, you had to pay big money to put an ad in a newspaper, on a billboard or on TV. Of course, a lot of the people seeing your ad would not be in the target demographic but that was the best that was on offer.

        Now with the internet you can not only target your ads a lot better, but the vast number of sites carrying ads means there now fewer big advertising opp

      • by Thelasko (1196535)

        Except 'selling ads' doesn't work and it doesn't come close to the amount of money made from print ads.

        You know why selling ads doesn't work. Because hardly anyone tries to "punch the monkey." Most internet ads are worthless. Their either scams, or huge global corporations.

        If a local newspaper wants to make ad revenue on the internet, it should have local ads. Instead of having ads for Chevy hosted by AdSense, local newspapers need to host their own ads for the Chevy dealer down the street.

    • You're right. However, they managed to get 3,000 subscribers, which means at $5 per month each they can now afford to pay a full-time newsroom staff of five people, on top of whatever the advertising pays for. Not too shabby.

      The Pegasus News [pegasusnews.com] manages to cover the entire Dallas-Fort Worth area with a total staff of 19 people.

    • If you charge for content and lock it down, you can make some money here and there, but almost all the time you'll make more overall if you don't charge, attract way, way more readers, and sell ads.

      That's only true for weakly compelling content which is most types of content. If you actually have real compelling content, then you're better off with lockdown.

      Just one example of real compelling content is porn. Although there are millions of sites with free porn clips, people still pay for membershi

    • by Sean (422)

      People don't want to pay for something that's half full of recycled content from AP and Reuters. It's all ads and government propaganda. If the newspaper contained any information worth knowing I'm sure it would have been successful.

      Maybe one day governments and businesses will just have their say on their own official web sites and journalists will simply maintain blogs.

      At least that way it would be more obvious who said what and news would have less top-down editorial control.

  • Roll-eyes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Weedhopper (168515) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @05:00PM (#27694917)

    Surprise, surprise.

    You mean people won't pay for something they can just as easily get for free?

    Really, who didn't see this one coming?

    What value are they adding to the "news" when, between the TV news websites and Google News for all the other locals who are NOT participating in this doomed venture, people get what they want?

    The only way this could work is if EVERY relevant news outlet decided to do this simultaneously. It would only take ONE outlet not participating to ruin the model.

    These guys need to realize that they need to give up on a dead and dying model of how information is distributed. The old media moguls who still run the show don't get it. That they can't up with another solution speaks to their actual lack of vision and creativity. Hey, Murdoch, if you're so fucking smart, why can't you and your people come up with a product that people want to buy?

    • Re:Roll-eyes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tool462 (677306) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @05:17PM (#27695097)

      Except that the bulk of that news being delivered through Google News comes from those media moguls with a failed business model. What I expect will happen is that journalism will be consolidated into a few large companies (say, Turner & News Corp), that will then either do as you say and charge for content, or can guarantee enough eyeballs through their new oligopoly that ad rates go up. Regardless, I can't help but think that the consolidation of news sources will ultimately be a bad thing for our society. It was bad enough when ClearChannel took over radio...

    • Re:Roll-eyes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FatJuggles (1206940) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @05:19PM (#27695123)

      The Wall Street Journal is a newspaper that's been charging for online content since as long as I can remember their site. Crain's Chicago Business is another site that charges. I pay for that site since it covers Chicago business news much better than any TV station in Chicago does.

      See some sort of pattern? People will pay for the content if it is valuable enough. If it's Perez Hilton's blog, no one cares to pay for it. Many times, WSJ is the first one to break some sort of major news story. Crain's covers Chicago Business in depth and has access to local business leaders because of it.

      It doesn't matter that others in their peer group give crap away for free. If you put some effort in to making a good product, people will buy it.

      • Re:Roll-eyes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by grcumb (781340) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @06:46PM (#27696127) Homepage Journal

        See some sort of pattern? People will pay for the content if it is valuable enough.

        Well put, but I wish more people understood what 'valuable' really means.

        People everywhere get that supply and demand is fundamentally different on the Web, but they get the emphasis entirely wrong. I've written about it in more detail [imagicity.com] elsewhere, but here's a quick summary:

        You can't just arbitrarily limit supply and expect it to magically increase in value. The mechanics of digital media make that impossible. You have to have something that's inherently valuable in the first place.

        For most people, the generic fluff that fills up 90% of their local newspaper is not something they would have paid for, if they'd had the choice. On the Web, they have that choice, and they don't pay.

        I write for two newspapers, and also publish online. I'm sympathetic to the plight of the traditional dailies and weeklies. I just wish they'd get a clue.

      • Absolutely dude. I pay for The Economist. Not because I'm Economist kind of guy, but because they consolidate information in a way that adds value to the actual news.

      • "It doesn't matter that others in their peer group give crap away for free. If you put some effort in to making a good product, people will buy it."

        Yes but the question for a business isn't so much, "will they buy it" but "will enough people buy it"?

        • Yes but the question for a business isn't so much, "will they buy it" but "will enough people buy it"?

          Depends how greedy the business is. If the business is privately owned, then "enough people" is usually much lower than if the business is publically traded.

          IPOs are great for the original owners if they want to sell out, but the pressures to grow shareholder value every day mean that there will never be "enough people" to buy it after the IPO.

      • With a little effort. refspoof allows one to view the normally subscriber only articles: http://machinist.salon.com/blog/2008/03/21/wsj/ [salon.com]
      • Question:

        Why doesn't someone pirate the Wall Street Journal and or Crain's Chicago Business content and re-post elsewhere?

    • by zer0that (1418047)
      There are other outlets that cover niche stories. For instance I pay for Stratfor because it covers news on Mexican drug cartels very well. In fact, I have yet to find another outlet that has such detailed information. So as the person above notes, valuable content really is the big determining factor. Niche market, or first with the information where its necessary.
    • Sigh. "Free" is a misleading word here.

      Who is paying the salaries of the journalists producing the content that people get for free on most other news websites? Advertisers, obviously. So the question then becomes, "Can a journalism business support itself solely on advertising revenue, because subscription-based support doesn't exist?" Google sure can, but they have a much wider audience than a local paper, and they've positioned themselves as both a medium for advertising (direct income from companies

      • I'm arguing against subscription based general news that is just as good from one source as another. It's all recycled AP stuff anyway.

        I AM willing to pay for subscription journalism as long as the value added is worth my money. I pay a little under $100 a year for my online only subscription to The Economist. Off an on, I've subscribed to ArsTechnica. I would pay for IRIN and ReutersAlertnet.

        These people are deluding themselves. They're looking to make you pay for information in a way that's simply no

      • by donny77 (891484)
        The salaries are paid by the AP. The AP doesn't make money on ads, it makes money on selling articles to newspapers. These newspapers make ad revenue and subscription revenue.

        Now, I live in a small town, ~50,000. I subscribe to the local paper and quite honestly I find little in it that isn't outdated or on CNN. For local news, the free 100% ad supported community paper has much better content.
        • by donny77 (891484)
          More I think about we're missing the boat. It's not so much adverts as classified ads. They probably generated a lot of revenue for the papers. Now, instead of a classified ad, people use e-bay and Craigslist.
    • by seebs (15766)

      What value they're adding to the "news" is that if we kill off everyone who did actual investigative reporting, the "news" will be back to the WWW's original list of links to other lists of links none of which ever lead to pages containing information.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hey, Murdoch, if you're so fucking smart, why can't you and your people come up with a product that people want to buy?

      I'm not a fan of Murdoch or his properties but I am a longtime newspaper reader and wish we could stop modding up this kind of trash talk. It's a "Tragedy of the Commons" type situation. Nobody wants to pay for what they can get for free, but if nobody pays, or not enough people pay to support a viable industry then there won't be much of anything worthwhile to be had. Instead of real j

  • by plover (150551) * on Thursday April 23, 2009 @05:07PM (#27695005) Homepage Journal

    50,000 subscribers in a month? That's really, really optimistic.

    It sounds to me like that's the goal they set in order to meet some certain existing financial mark (such as paying the current rent and 100% of the reporter's salaries, etc.) Not a safe bet on a real unknown like "who will subscribe to the online version?"

    • Perhaps it was the number of their dead tree version readers who had a PC and access to the internet in a recent poll.

      CEO - "In that poll we did recently, how many have access to the internet and a device to subscribe?"
      Marketing - "50,000"
      CEO - "Mark that figure as our target for the first month's subscription, you have to be bold in this game."
      Marketing - "That's a tough ask, perhaps we should aim a bit lower for a while."
      CEO - "Get personnel in here to dictate a job advert, we may have a vacancy in market
  • I should pay for news when I can find it anywhere I want for free? If 'content' is going to be premium, it needs to be something that I can't find anywhere else. The general problem for these news sites is you can find it somewhere else.

    • by taxman_10m (41083)

      Everyone covers the big stuff. How many people cover the last town council meeting?

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        I get that on my local access TV station(on basic cable), and can also walk down to my city hall and get the minutes and full transcripts for free.

        • by taxman_10m (41083)

          What about reporting on it. That's quite different than watching the thing in its entirety or getting the transcript.

          • by Mashiki (184564)

            Direct call in, and open forum discussion via caller show after the broadcast. Than again the local paper here has never covered the meetings with any interest.

            If there is anything of interest you hear it through the grapevine while walking downtown.

      • by antic (29198)

        Obviously not many, but very few will pay for that sort of watchdog role. I've actually wondered in the past if that responsibility couldn't fall to universities in some way - student journalists cutting their teeth. Better than no watchdog at all.

  • by Shihar (153932) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @05:11PM (#27695051)

    The idea that you are going to win charging money when there exists an Internet a few billion strong that is devoted to passing and spreading information for basically nothing is on its face silly. Short of government mandate creating a cartel, basic news is going to be impossible to charge for.

    The only people that can charge are folks who actually do investigative journalism and can bring something to the table that others can't. The Economist is a great of a publication that has actually managed to charge people. They manage to bring in heavy weight thinkers (Nobel laureates, high government officials, authors, etc.) that normally are harder to access. They serve their niche well and drag in a few extra bucks from the Intertubes for the effort.

    What you can't charge for is basic news and random journalist opinion. The opinion of a journalist (no offense) is not any deeper or brighter than any other bloke. You might as well ask a hair dresser or an engineer for their opinion. Basic news is also impossible to charge for. News spreads too fast and someone will put it up for free.

    If you serve a niche very very well in a way that absolutely no one else does credibly, you might be able to charge for access. Otherwise though, the only other alternative is to find a way to turn eyeballs on the page into cash. Usually, that means ads, but there are certainly other ways out there that no one has hit on yet. I mean hell, who would have thought 20 years ago that the print cartoonist who do the best are not actually in print, but on the web and make most of their money by selling merchandise?

    • The opinion of a journalist (no offense) is not any deeper or brighter than any other bloke. You might as well ask a hair dresser or an engineer for their opinion.

      The fact that you feel obliged to say "no offense" is almost amusing, today. Once upon a time, journalists and the news in general had this aura of authority and insight. Those days are long gone. When the news started becoming press release regurgitation, industry and political action committee shills, and started writing at a 4th grade level, they destroyed any aura of credibility they had.

      Your second sentence pretty much hits the nail on the head with a ten ton hammer. We have the Internet now, Goo

  • ...Just don't know when to quit....

  • No PR (Score:4, Interesting)

    by at.splat (775901) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @05:15PM (#27695085)

    I live in Denver and always preferred the Rocky Mountain News to the Denver Post, the local paper that has so far survived. I'm a news junkie and get all my content almost exclusively online. I never heard of InDenverTimes.com until this morning.

    While the summary's conclusion may be correct — migration from print to web may very well be a futile endeavor — it's an entirely different story if people in the target demographic know nothing of the venture. Let's at least acknowledge this for what it is: in large part, a failure of publicity.

    • Same here (Score:3, Informative)

      by SuperKendall (25149)

      I also had not heard of it at all, and I live in Denver also...

      Although once in the web arena, I'm not sure how well a newspaper based web site can do against the news station web sites.

    • by Vornzog (409419)

      I live in Denver and always preferred the Rocky Mountain News to the Denver Post, the local paper that has so far survived. I'm a news junkie and get all my content almost exclusively online. I never heard of InDenverTimes.com until this morning.

      I live in Denver, and have always preferred the Post. I get all my news online. Interestingly, I have heard of InDenverTimes multiple times - all from the Denver Post website.

      Here's the thing - they wouldn't have needed any more publicity than that, if they would have had an angle. But their whole story is 'we're going to put news on the web' which has been done before. They had some of the old Rocky staff, but the Post hired a couple of the bigger name columnists, so they didn't have an exclusive on th

  • It's not solely the fact that we can get the same thing elsewhere for free that did them in... It's also the fact that, in the new age of Internet-powered media which we're just starting to see dawn now, no one really should have to pay for anything.
  • If the Omaha World-Herald were to shut down tomorrow, I'd still get all the local news I need from KETV, WOWT, KMTV, or KPTM. And if the TV stations set up a subscription model on their respective websites, I'd still be able to watch the 6 o'clock news for free over the air. In fact, it might prompt them to add more local news programming to take up the slack. There would be no incentive for me to pay a dime for local news when I can get it for free.
  • in years. They are no different than phone books now.

    Theres a reason I have to call the newspaper and bitch at them to stop throwing the fucking useless pulp on my driveway every morning. It took me threatening to start calling the cops and reporting them as littering before the stopped. I have never subscribed to a newspaper in this state, and haven't paid for a newspaper in at least 20 years.

    Subscriptions fees are just icing on the cake, free money so to speak. They make their real money on advertisin

  • 1995 called. It wants its web business model back.

    There's a huge gap somewhere in newspapers' thinking. (And actually, one in every content producers' thinking). People want free content. TV is the perfect example of a very successful business model where the prime channels are free of charge to the end user. Advertisers pay millions to advertise on TV. There is, absolutely, categorically, beyond any shadow of a doubt, no technological impediment to why this can't happen for online news, TV, movies, musi
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by zonky (1153039)
      Free to Air TV is the perfect example of a monopoly business model where there is an artifical constraint (Limited Frequency Allocation) on the number of entrants to the market. Where digital TV, etc has increased the number of players, revenue/earnings has dropped signficantly.
      • by owlnation (858981)
        It has dropped significantly, but it's far, far, far from zero. And most of those entrants into the market are only able to do so through subscription. The core business remains both free to the end user and hugely profitable. TiVo has a much bigger impact on revenue than new entrants to the market.

        Any viable content requires specialist skills to produce. In the case of newspapers that means high quality journalists. That (as a million blogs prove conclusively), does restrict entry into the market. The w
    • Re:duh indeed. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Coriolis (110923) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @06:34PM (#27695999)

      There's a huge gap somewhere in newspapers' thinking. (And actually, one in every content producers' thinking). People want free content.

      There appears to be one in most content consumers' thinking, too. There is no such thing as free. Everything costs somebody, something.

      TV is the perfect example of a very successful business model where the prime channels are free of charge to the end user. Advertisers pay millions to advertise on TV. There is, absolutely, categorically, beyond any shadow of a doubt, no technological impediment to why this can't happen for online news, TV, movies, music, or whatever else.

      Other, you mean, than the ease of automatic filtering of online adverts? Online adverts cost a hell of lot less than TV adverts because they're too easy to avoid. This will only get worse. As technology advances and TV adverts become easier to filter out, TV advertisers will have options like increased product placement available to them (imagine little "buy now!" buttons hovering over laptops in CSI). These tricks will likely neither be possible nor desirable in text-based services like online news.

      The reason it doesn't happen is narrow-minded executives who do not think creatively enough, or try hard enough. Adapt or die. End of story.

      Indeed. I think the "adaption" that's been postulated elsewhere is quite possible: first, smaller news outfits die as advertising revenue on online services fails to replace lost revenue from newspapers; then, the few remaining big players get together and agree to simultaneously switch business models. Even if they don't do that, you're still left with a few large corporations controlling what news the public sees.

    • by daveime (1253762)

      Pfft ... tell that to my cable provider (Sky Cable Philippines), who not only make you pay for the cable, but are now running ads also in the breaks of popular primetime shows. Bastards.

  • I didn't see full details in the linked AP article, but these schemes almost always get it backwards.

    Content is ubiquitous. They need to look at charging for something other than content. For example, charge for timeliness. In other words, put up a paywall that only surrounds the latest week or two of articles. And I don't mean AP reprints, I mean timely local news coverage and opinion that isn't available anywhere else. Let people who want that information as soon as it is available pay a premium, but

    • There's two sides to that. It's actually more valuable to make the old content pay-to-play. You might also get a "breaking news" bonus, but there are so many bloggers, twits, et al., out there that you'd have to be creating the content from scratch, and that's expensive to do with dedicated humans. Too expensive for all but business use and large markets.

      No, if you kept all your old articles under lock and key, you'd find people who needed access to that information and would be willing to pay dearly to g

      • Yeah, that's precisely the shorted-sighted thinking that kills most of these ventures. The NY Times tried to do that, they found it didn't work and stopped doing it. You keep your old articles under lock and key, people will pirate them. Other sources will produce roughly similar articles for free - as you yourself wrote. Except for certain niche applications, the value is not in the content itself.

        • I was thinking more of a Lexis-Nexis type database - geared towards research and review, with a nice interface and powerful search engine. Value added stuff. And when I say "pay dearly," I mean as compared to "free".

          Now, two things affect this. (1) if all you're storing is other people's stuff, then you're hosed because (2) game theory still holds - if just one other outlet for the material is free, you get nothing.

          There's just not much value for good reporting these days. Note that I disagree that good rep

          • Good reporting is very valuable. But the older the reporting is, the more it is diluted by other sources who may only do 90% as good a job - that's still plenty good enough for most people - or may even do better than 100% because they used the original reporting as a source for their own content thus incorporating it plus new material too.

  • by rueger (210566) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @06:05PM (#27695685) Homepage
    British Columbia's Tyee.ca [thetyee.ca] just ran a fundraising appeal to bring in dollars for additional election coverage. They asked for $5,000 and got $20,000. [thetyee.ca]

    People will pay for good journalism, at least if they feel that the conventional outlets aren't doing the job.
    • The Tyee is not a news site. It is not "good journalism." It is an opinion site. They write stories with very clear opinionated slants. And people who agree with that slant gravitate to the site and call it "good journalism."

      Their election "coverage" is nothing more than them asking for money to cover the election from the slant their readers want. Read their appeal again.

      From your link:

      We asked you to tell us which issues mattered most to you, promised to put your donation towards that area of reporting

      This is no different than a consortium of advertisers requesting a newspaper cover an election issue from a particular p

  • The one thing I never hear anyone discuss is the content. Sure the internet is great at distributing content. But where does the content COME FROM? The content of most internet "news sites" are links generated from someone who actually used a human to gather information and then write the story. Who was that actual human? Did MSN, Yahoo, Google or Drudge send out a human to talk to people, take pictures, research relevant facts? I'm guessing no to all of the above. They sucked up the content someone else pa
    • by cdrguru (88047)

      Like all Internet content, it is user-generated, contributed and blatently stolen.

      In the world of the 18-24 year old demographic, nobody pays for anything on the Internet. Movies, music, news, whatever, it is all free for the taking. So you have entire online ventures built on the premise they can just get top-quality content for free from ... well, somewhere.

      The result of this is that the content is worth precisely what was paid for it.

      Sure, some of it is good. And some is bad. Most is either incredibl

  • Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

    If the local print newspaper had to shut down due to lack of reader interest, why should a local electronic newspaper filled with similar content succeed?

  • The Detroit News just went to a similar model. I still subscribe to the limited paper edition just to get the Sunday. It's a stupid, stupid, schedule. I get Thu., Sat., and Sun., but have free (as in, included with my paper subscription whose price didn't go down), the online edition.

    Well, the online edition sucks ass. Computer screens aren't newspapers. I've *always* had access to the web version, which is still much, much better, especially with an RSS reader.

    So even I, a non-luddite, a computer user, who

  • WSJ gives free access to premium content is you are being redirected from google, facebook, digg etc. Here is a dirty little secret. The entire content on WSJ is available to you for free, if you can trick WSJ into believing that you have been directed to their webpage via digg.com!

    Step1) Use firefox
    Step2) Install refspoof http://refspoof.mozdev.org/ [mozdev.org]
    Step3) Install greasemonkey https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/748 [mozilla.org]
    Step4) Install this script in greasemonkey http://userscripts.org/scripts/ [userscripts.org]
  • So, it sounds like they're pulling in $15,000/mo, or $180,000/year.

    Surely that's enough to pay for hosting and a couple of reporters and still make a profit.

    They may not be raking it in, but I'd be pretty happy with that.

  • I feel for them. The print paper shuts down and their online offering falls flat.

    Saw this recently:

    "So how are things at the newspaper?"
    "Really good. It's a boom industry right now. We actually drove here in a car made out of money. That's how good things are. Would you like some money? I have extra."

    source [leasticoulddo.com]

  • by symbolset (646467) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @09:00PM (#27697137) Journal

    And if the cost of production is above that amount, it will fade away.

    When distribution of information required a million dollar printing press and an army of little boys to bring three day old text to the citizen who wanted to be informed, newspapers made sense. The value of a reporter who could weigh the issues and give a factual report only minimally slanted by his opinion and experience was proven. It was worth the effort to read between the lines of the reportage and the editing to find an understanding of what actually happened.

    In an age where any twit with an iPhone can stream live coverage to be archived to YouTube, where the twitterati can disseminate hot issues, where the blogosphere can issue forth its opinion of the events first, second and third hand, where Google can weigh the merits of those opinions and link not only to them but to video of what happened - all within minutes of the actual events ... not so much.

    • Citizen journalism can only go so far. While I suppose it's possible for private citizens to do investigative journalism, I think that trained professionals may be far more effective at digging up information about government corruption, corporate abuses of employees/environment/customers, etc.

      Sometimes (not always, but sometimes anyhow), investigative journalists can be the first ones to spot problems with investment companies, building projects where safety is being reduced by shady cost-cutting (bridges,

  • Maybe InDenverTimes' own story should have been linked: "INDenverTimes provides update" [indenvertimes.com]
  • by Ortega-Starfire (930563) on Thursday April 23, 2009 @10:54PM (#27697905) Journal

    The newspapers are doing it wrong. I pay an absurd amount of money for news services that actually report news.

    Stratfor is the cheapest one that I use, and I appreciate it for its global reporting and analysis of situations that happens to be (gasp!) unbiased! They literally just provide the facts and logical analysis. If they did local news I'd pay them more.

  • There would have been a six-month gap between the ending of the print edition and startup of the web site. Plus the name and managment of the new site was different from the previous newspaper website. Other newspapers that have turned web-only had a seamless transition. For unclear reasons the news chain that owned the rocky didnt allow this.
  • I know lots of people are going to say "Well duh, why would I pay for stuff I can get for free elsewhere?" but the fact is that most "news" is shit so why would any intelligent person really WANT to pay for it if they didn't have to?

    News has, to a great degree, been reduced to the level of a trivial hobby for most people. Yes, you read the paper, but only out of habit and some vague hope that it's "informing" you in some quasi-educational way. It's become the mental equivalent of chewing gum. Look at a "qua

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