Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's the business model, stupid

Via Dan Kennedy (starting here), I've found Michael Kinsley confirming a claim I've often seen:

Newspaper readers have never paid for the content (words and photos). What they have paid for is the paper that content is printed on. A week of The Washington Post weighs about eight pounds and costs $1.81 for new subscribers, home-delivered. With newsprint (that’s the paper, not the ink) costing around $750 a metric ton, or 34 cents a pound, Post subscribers are getting almost a dollar’s worth of paper free every week — not to mention the ink, the delivery, etc.
The problem is the loss of ad revenue in the inevitable migration from newsprint to pixelprint.

Even if this were not true, readers are not going to pay for content. Charging for it is a fantasy. The quote above simply proves it's not any more unfair that Internet content is free than it ever has been.

The terrible shakeout will continue in local papers until ad revenue equilibrates to fewer outlets and the survivors go on. I still say do what you can win at and aggregate the rest, whether it's from traditional sources such as the AP or from content-generating bloggers who are springing up everywhere covering their own towns, which the papers have mostly abandoned.

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