June 1, 2008

Support your local newspaper...website

It used to be that if I wanted to read Le Monde or the Jerusalem Post, I had to head to a library or newsstand for the privilege of purchasing or reading an edition that was at least 48 hours old. The easy and immediate availability of global news and opinion on the Internet changed all that.

Back in 2000 I cancelled all daily newspaper subscriptions. Since then, I've been reading the news every day via a web browser. It hasn't been a perfect experience. Only about 60% of the information in the physical newspaper was available on paper's website.

Why would publishers do this? Simple - a newspaper's business model was sustained through paying advertisers and subscribers.. Newspaper publishers needed to protect cash flow. Personally, I don't care that I missed that 40% of stuff held captive in the physical paper. I didn't bother me that I missed advertising for the latest hot car or my daily horoscopes.

However, from 2000 to about 2005, I did miss the "opinion stuff." This was the editorials, columnists and letters to the editor. But this too changed in 2004 with the rise of blogs and the blogosphere. As a result I was able to get my fill of solid opinion, conversations and analysis.

Reacting to these trends The Globe and Mail, (a leading Canadian national newspaper) announced yesterday that the "locks are off" its website. Here's what Edward Greenspon, Editor-in-Chief and Angus Frame, Editor, globeandmail.com said about it:

"The Globe Insider subscription program has retired, and much of the content that required paid access has become free to all globeandmail.com visitors....Every Globe columnist, daily horoscopes, crosswords, Sudoku puzzles and a suite of news-tracking tools are now free. Margaret Wente, Christie Blatchford, Jeffrey Simpson and the rest of The Globe's best-known columnists can join the fray and add their talented voices to the freewheeling conversations of the Internet era."

Smart move. Greenspon and Frame's move inserts its columnists into world wide conversations on the Blogosphere. This increases the Globe's brand awareness and reach outside its traditional markets. Which will in turn deliver higher margin cash flow (pay per click advertising) and opportunity due to this wider audience. I bet that a dollar earned on a newspaper website is of a higher margin that a dollar earned on a hard copy reader's subscription where distribution and energy costs are a large component.

Today, when I still see stacks of newspapers in offices and homes I can't help but think of the time and money that could be saved by simply reading the exact same news on newspaper websites. I wonder if some readers are thinking that they're supporting advertisers and the papers themselves by being a paid subscriber, when the opposite may be the reality.

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