Kudos to the East Bay Express for investing what appears to be at least a few hours of precious staff time to find a credible model for saving the newspaper industry. As newspapers continue to fold (into oblivion, not pirate hats) some fear the fate of legit journalism hangs in the balance. Yet no one has produce a viable means of monetizing a product that has lost significant market share to new media and endured plummeting ad buys. Until now. Kind of.
Like many, your trusty itinerant newspaperman-turned-new-media-mogul believes the industry is in the midst of an evolution rather than extinction (you know, the way that dinosaurs evolved into? no wait?). Several means of monetizing newspaper content in the online sector have been suggested ? AdAge Mediaworks Nat Ive?s reports that attendees of the recent Newspaper Association of America convention in San Diego were treated to Google CEO Eric Schmidt?s observation that
?The newspaper business and other publishers will end up using a combination of advertising, micropayments and regular subscriptions to support its content online, much the way cable TV already operates, told newspaper executives today. ?I think you’re going to end up with all three,? he said. But despite some hope to the contrary, especially as ad support has dropped, people will still get most of their online news free, Mr. Schmidt said. ?It’s very difficult to hold information back.?
That?s the point Schmidt, we shouldn?t hold the information back, we should capitalize on the virality of digital delivery systems and monetize the medium not the message. To wit, the New York Times? Richard P?rez-Pe?a and Tim Arango ask in today?s edition (which, appropriately, I read online):
How do you get consumers to pay for something they have grown used to getting free?
Some industries have pulled it off. Coca-Cola took tap water, filtered it and called it Dasani, and makes millions of dollars a year. People who used to ask why anyone would pay for television now subscribe to cable and TiVo. Airlines charge for luggage, meals, even pillows. And some music fans who have downloaded pirated songs are also patrons of iTunes.
Someday, even fish will be wrapped digitally and birds will poop in cages lined with ones and zeroes. I applaud the attempt of the Express to find a model and theirs ? to quote the third act plot point of every B action flick ever made ?? ?is so crazy, it just might work.? Though I think it?s telling the message is delivered via YouTube.