I’ve been hesitant to post anything about this, but something I ran into earlier this week has prompted me to write this. Let me preface this, as always, that these are my thoughts and opinions and do not reflect the position of my employer.
Yesterday someone I follow on Twitter posted a link to an article about hosting WordPress in a IAAS (Infrastructure as a service) environment. I clicked on it and I was able to read the first paragraph before I had to fill out a form to read the rest. I didn’t want to do it, but I wanted to read the article so I did. Once the form was filled out I was then promptly pushed to an add on their site. This nearly sent me over the edge with a rant on twitter. But I restrained myself and in typical fashion I reflected a bit on it over night.
Ever since the internet has shifted from first gear and into whatever gear we are now, traditional publications (ie: print) have struggled. A ton of magazines and newspapers have either shut down or have had to drastically change the way the do business. Since 1998 I’ve worked with newspapers in some fashion or another so I’ve seen it happen.
Part of the struggle and problem, I believe, is that newspapers and magazines had it so good for so long (I’ve heard anywhere from 35% profit to 50% profit) that they could do anything and everything to fine tune what they were making money off of. When the internet came along that was no longer the case, but many newspaper still tended to think this way due to leadership not wanting to embrace the internet (embrace may not be the correct word).
On the flip side, what websites make off of the internet with advertising and the like, is not going to make up the difference of printing the paper (at least in the size of newspapers I’ve worked with and I suspect with many other newspapers). So that being the case how are newspapers and magazines to make up the difference that they’ve lost in print?
I’m of the opinion that it’s not 100% possible. I do think there are ways to bring internet advertising from the low end to a more reasonable amount. So how would a newspaper or a magazine go about making this difference up?
Provide content that readers want! While I didn’t like filling out the form to read the rest of the article yesterday, I did it. I even let the video ad run (one of those video interstitial ads). And then I read the article. In hindsight I didn’t think the article was worth all of that, but the magazine got my information. I can not emphasize this point enough. If readers don’t get what they want they will find a source that will provide them with what they want and leave you behind. I think this is easier for magazines than newspapers because magazines I’d say are more ‘niche’ than newspapers. Niche seems to work very well on the internet, while general (newspapers) doesn’t work as well. I suppose newspapers are ‘niche’ in the sense that they usually cover a specific geographic area. The problem is that some newspapers have cut their staff so low that the bulk of the paper is wire stories rather than stories the locals will find of interest.
Here’s the hard part: advertising. Most people don’t like a page full of ads and as much as I’d like to see higher CPM’s they ain’t happening. So what’s a publication to do with advertising? Is there something better out there? I’m really not sure what the answer to this is. Maybe those interstitial’s are the answer. Something I’ve recently heard about is allowing advertisers to produce their own content on the publishers site, and then charging a premium for that content (a bit premium). This then equates to SEO and various other pieces for the advertiser. Here is a link in regards to this. The problem with this is that the publication industry doesn’t want the advertisers and the editorial departments to be to close.
So like the whole industry I have no answer. The best answer I can come up with is create an audience that loves you and your product. Provide them what they want and hopefully they will in the end pay you for it.