Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Today's WSJ has an op-ed in which the author argues that daily newspapers DO have a positive future, provided they strive for "fairness and credibility"...

Me thinks the guy has it all wrong... in large part because he fails to recognize why people buy newspapers.

Only some portion of the readership buys the paper because they want the news that the editors believe to be so valuable. The rest of the readership buys the paper because they want sports scores and profiles, access to classified ads (want ads and for-sale listings) and such other information such as weather listings and TV schedules.

Thus, improving the editorial product will only have a attentuated effect on the overall readership levels (spending more to produce Page 1 will do nothing for the reader who only wants to read the comics).

Second, NONE of the readers of the paper are willing to pay the true costs of the newspaper. For years and years, the price of a paper (whether by subscription or at the newstand) has been a fraction of the costs that were spent producing the paper (true or not, I once was told the subscription price merely covered the distribution costs of getting the paper to the readership and covered nothing of the editorial costs of producing the paper in the first place).

And, since the readers will NOT be willing to do this, the papers will be unable to recover from readers the money they are no longer making from advertisers... which makes for a very dark future for newspapers.

In fact, the future is dark for any content provider that can't get its readers to pay the costs associated with providing that content...