Content-what’s it worth?


I got an email from an outfit out of Atlanta that was pitching me on my thoughts of what a combination of advertising, micropayments and regular subscriptions would look like for all of the newspapers that are struggling to redefine themselves.

As luck would have it, I had been thinking about and was going to write about the state of newspapers and how they were going to evolve with the times.  More specifically, how were they going to make money and survive.

Here’s the easy answer. They’re not. Some variation of them might. But…

Newspapers as we know or knew them, will not exist in their current state within the next 5 years.

Mark it down.

The proof is there and it continues to rear its ugly head week after week after week. Newspapers are shutting down. Newspapers, some deemed iconic institutions, are shrinking and or closing their doors. Why? The cost to produce the papers are outpacing the consumption. Why? We’re a nation on the move. The people, Gen Y and even Gen X, who are slowly becoming, if not already, the dominant workforce, are content to get their news, information, and content,online. We are moving rapidly to a global, mobile, society where newspapers do not fit into the equation of our daily lives.

As well, the next 5 years will crank out college grads, a workforce, and individuals that have virtually zero affinity with newspapers. They will have zero need for newspapers and they will not clamor for their “Sunday paper”.

So where does this leave the readers of the Sunday New York Times? Look for that venerable paper to go to printing once a week, on Sundays. In fact look for the larger ones to follow suit as well. It’s the only way newspapers as you and I know them, can survive in some  fashion of its former self.

So where will the money come from? These organizations will focus on the advertisers as they normally did, but it will evolve into using search as a primary function and money maker- where these online publications tie in some type of Adwords function into their sites. Ad dollars will flow but in different forms.

News organizations and Media outlets that control these papers, cannot rely on subscriptions, simply because there are too many ways for their readers to get the content for free. The realize that.  No one and I repeat no one, is willing to pay for content that they can find elsewhere, for free. If I’m forced to say, “OK, maybe some will pay for content”. Riddle me this, who are those people and what are they willing to pay for? If you’re going to say premium content, please tell me what you are calling premium and why is it worth paying for?

I know some of you will fight this notion, but then again if I were to have told you 5 years ago that all of the auto-makers would be on life support right now fighting for their very existence, what would you have said? Impossible!? No way!?

Well there is no clear indicator on the horizon right now that says anything differently about the slow death demise of the newspaper. There is nothing to stop it; and there is no one currently in school or getting ready to go to school who relies as much on newspapers as the older generations did.

It’s as simple as this..

Is content still king then? You betcha. But I got news for ya, content is also free, and that’s whats killing the newspaper business.

6 thoughts on “Content-what’s it worth?

  1. I don’t buy your prediction. I argue newspapers will continue in their current form–especially in local markets, if nowhere else–for another 10-15 years.

    Time will tell, though.

  2. You’re right time will tell, but the past 12 months have not been kind to the business. It may survive in some form on a localized level-I’m just sure of the form, that’s why maybe its less than an every day type of deal?

  3. Marc,
    Great points… I had lunch last week with the owner/publisher of a local small-business paper that prints monthly. We spent a majority of the time discussing how major newspapers like the Boston Globe were in trouble and in danger of failing. Just this morning I was reading about how the arrogance of the Australian wine industry could become its downfall (

    The bottom line is the demographics for a traditional print paper are dwindling. A paper needs readership – needs to provide content that is both relevant and current. In today’s world, that is proving more and more difficult to provide on paper…

  4. i read the wsj online. i read the nyt sunday in print. different experiences. growing up in boston reading the boston globe (one of the best newspapers in the country) i must admit i was heart broken to learn today that there is a real possibility that the paper will fold. what intrigues me is the newspaper that will remain on the boston stands is the boston herald that is pretty much tabloid news. what does that say about our world?

  5. I think we both know what that means. It might not be as much about the content anymore as it is about the headline? or what we can all talk about? Maybe people get more pleasure about talking about others and their problems than they would if they were reading about the country’s and the worlds problems/ I don’t know, either way…the times..they are a changin..

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