Posted by: structureofnews | September 5, 2010

What’s An Online Subscriber Worth?

Over at paidcontent, Robert Andrews notes that paid subscribers to online news sites are worth just a quarter on their print counterparts:

Annual income per paywall subscriber on TheTimes.co.uk and WSJ.com is just a quarter that from subscribers to UK quality dailies’ print editions…

That’s hardly surprising, since online subscriptions tend to be cheaper than print ones; still, it underscores the futility of wasting huge amounts of effort on the free vs. paid debate: some people will be able to charge; others won’t.  Some will get more traffic than others.  But at the end of the day, with a few exceptions, online subscription and online advertising revenues won’t measure up to the old levels of print monopoly days.

That’s not great (for news organizations, at least), but it’s a likely reality.  So we really need to look at rethinking the revenue streams and business models; but far more importantly, rethink the product.  There’s no point bemoaning the fact that people won’t pay as much for online publications or advertisers as much for online ads, or trying to figure out how thinner and thinner newsrooms can replicate the work that they did in the past.

Let’s focus instead on what new news products are suitable for the time, and how to extend the shelf-life of what we do, so that we can bring in more revenue per story/article/database/journalist.


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