Newspapers chase online readers (Jornais caçam leitores online)

 Mais evidências da necessidade de entender melhor os novos modelos de negócio que a Internet vem impondo à mídia tradicional. O post abaixo vem do jornal inglês The Times: http://business.timesonline.co.uk!

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May 3, 2009

Newspapers chase online readers
Many US papers are abandoning print to focus on the new generation

 

This July Michigan’s Ann Arbor News will become the latest American newspaper to disappear from newsstands. It caters to one of the wealthiest areas of Michigan and has been in print since 1835 when Andrew Jackson was president. While he lives on in print as the face of $20 bills, the Ann Arbor News is following papers across America into cyberspace, no longer able to justify the cost of printing daily news.

When advertising income slumped more than 20% in January, publisher Laurel Champion said the paper’s business model was no longer sustainable.

It is not alone. This year 94 newspapers have closed or cut their print editions, and 55 went in 2008, according to Paper Cuts, a website that tracks industry changes. There were only two closures in 2007.

The trend cuts across the board from weeklies such as The Carson Times to city papers that now operate only on the web, such as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Baltimore Examiner. The fate of many other prominent titles hangs in the balance, most notably the San Francisco Chronicle, established in 1865 and northern California’s largest circulation newspaper.

Last week there was more bad news. The Audit Bureau of Circulations said average daily circulation of American newspapers declined 7% in the six months to March 31. Among the top 25 titles only The Wall Street Journal, owned by The Sunday Times parent News Corp, bucked the trend. Weekday circulation at the New York Post, another News Corp title, fell 20.6%.

Rick Edmonds, media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit media organisation, had expected an overall drop of about 5.5%. He said 7% was “moderately alarming” but there was a combination of reasons for the fall. Some papers had cut circulation to trim costs. Unlike in Britain, most newspapers in America are delivered, not bought in shops.

Titles that once prided themselves on a big geographical sweep are now concentrating on core markets. Even so, there was little good news in the figures. “Some of these papers have had losses of more than 10% for several years now – and that’s the road to oblivion,” Edmonds added. Most American newspapers are still making money but many of their owners are saddled with huge debts. And the cost of newsprint has soared while advertising revenue has plummeted.

Online readership continues to rise, up 10.5% on last year, according to the latest Nielsen figures. Yet online advertising is not proving the panacea that newspapers had hoped for.

Craigslist, the classified ads website, is believed to have taken $7 billion of advertising from newspapers each year and overall ad revenue dropped 16.6% last year, said the Newspaper Association of America.

Alan Mutter, former editor, lecturer, and now author of the influential Newsosaur blog, said the really worrying trend for America’s newspapers started well before today’s slide. “You can’t blame the internet because the trend started before the internet was housebroken. But clearly the migration of consumers to interactive media, laptops, smart phones and Twitter has come at the expense of newspapers.”

Papers fought back online, offering online exclusives. The US News & World Report, for example, now publishes a subscription-only weekly magazine with video and audio podcasts. Other American papers have pursued “hyper-local” news, generated by readers, as a way to claw back readership. The idea is to create citizen journalists to cover everything from the cat-up-a-tree story to the ins an outs of the local school. Mutter said the local initiative was yet to bear fruit.

“A very small fraction of the community is going to go to the library board meeting and be able to write about it coherently,” he said. “The next issue is that the things that have come up on the internet where people want to share information, whether it’s Twitter or Yelp – these have all occurred organically. None of these online social venues has been created by a big media organisation.”

It was clear, he said, that young people want news and love to share information online but they do not see themselves as newspaper readers.

The consequences are likely to be dire. “It’s highly likely that soon there are going to be some states without newspapers as we know them today. The trend seems inevitable,” he said. The big problem was “not a lack of interest or information but the economics that have underpinned what we have called journalism”. Most of these problems, he believes, stem from the “original sin” of newspapers on the web – the decision to give away most of their information free.

All this pressure is forcing some radical thinking in newspaper-land. When the economy finally recovers, online advertising is unlikely to be the only business model America’s remaining papers will pursue on the web. Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, said that for all the woes of the print-based media world, news remained a big draw on the web.

“We are at a moment when it is increasingly clear that newspapers have more readers than ever before but so far not with business models that benefit from that readership,” he said. “There is an enormous opportunity now for publishers to look beyond advertising, to go back to the roots of the industry and create enough value in this space for some number of readers to be willing to pay for access to their content.”

He believes new ways to read news, including on the iPhone and Amazon’s Kindle electronic book reader, offer newspapersa second chance to look at how they monetise their content. “I think newspaper publishers are not going to make the same mistake with new devices that they made on the internet, which was to make their valuable content available for free.”

Crovitz recently set up Journalism Online with Steven Brill, former chief executive of Clear, an airport security company and founder of American Lawyer magazine, and Leo Hindery, managing partner of InterMedia Partners, a New York media industry private-equity fund manager. Among other ventures, they hope to establish an online payment system to coordinate payments across a network of news organisations.

He believes the industry is heading toward a future where readers are offered different tiers of access. Not everyone will pay for information online but for those who value in-depth news, charges will become the norm.

“I do think that many news publishers will find very profitable new sources of revenue from their most engaged readers online by offering them distinctive content. Some years from now we will look back at the early period of the internet as an aberration, a short period of time when news publishers relied only on one revenue stream, advertising, having totally forgotten that advertising is cyclical.”

PRESSING FACTS

IN 1998, 58.6% of the adult population read a daily newspaper, according to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). By 2007 that had dropped to 48.4%. Over the same period, the percentage of readers aged 18-24 fell from 43.5% to 33.9%.

Newspaper websites attracted an average of 73.3m unique visitors a month in the first three months of the year, up 10.5% from the same period last year, according to Nielsen Online.

Overall ad revenue, including print and online, fell 16.6% in 2008, according to the NAA. Print ads fell 17.7% while online ads fell 2%.

So far this year 94 newspapers have closed or decided to concentrate on online ventures. Last year 55 papers made the same decision. And last week the NAA itself followed the trend, axing the print edition of its magazine, Presstime.

Uma resposta to “Newspapers chase online readers (Jornais caçam leitores online)”

  1. fabianooliveira Says:

    Interessante e vale a leitura e reflexão.

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