THE FUTURE OF NEWS – Making Money in a Digital World

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The age of news for free online is over – well, for the paper mastheads at least. While they struggle with dropping subscribers and higher costs, the print media are trying to find ways in monetising their content in new ways. But how are they doing it? And have they been successful in achieving this?

Background

The main issue is that there is simply not enough revenue from advertising to support the journalism found in newspapers and the costs of printing it . That is why we have seen some newspapers shift towards digital-only, such as the Christian Science Monitor. Some have opted to keep their costs low, swinging the axe in editorial departments – but you can only cut so many jobs before your content becomes worthless.

However, it seems now that everyone is looking to find ways in monetising their content online to supplement the current way of simply placing ads on their content and (hopefully) make it relevant to the story.

But what are the other options, and have they been successful?

The Paywall

The Wall Street Journal popularised the paywall. While some scoffed at the idea, many accepted this. Why? Well, the paper has a long-standing history of good-quality journalism, and so it could get away of implementing this with little consequences. If you wanted trashy tabloid content, you can always visit the Herald Sun for free, but for more serious journalism, pay a bit more and you can read the WSJ.

Now, everyone is embracing it. News Corporation’s papers in the UK have started a paywall on its sites, as well as The Australian here. There are also plans to make this the standard for the other newspapers under Rupert Murdoch’s control next year. But it doesn’t stop with Murdoch: the New York Times is also implementing a paywall – allowing you to read 20 articles for free per month before asking for you to pay. The NYT model has been somewhat successful, with a reported 1 million paying for access (an increase of 281,000 before the paywall was erected). And there are talks that Fairfax is also considering such thing.

However, paywalls have had some negative consequences. The Times in the UK lost most of its internet readership – it, unlike NYT, made everything behind a paywall; while a local newspaper, Newsday in Long Island, attempt failed when reportedly only 35 people subscribed. The latter was due to a deal with the a local cable provider *which most people subscribed to) that made their customers’ access to the site for free.

Their main proposition is simple: if you like our content, pay for it. However, the only problem is that there are sites who offer news for free. The Guardian in the UK refuses to put a paywall online, while you also have public broadcasters such as the BBC and ABC obligated to put their news content for free.

The App

The newspaper industry has to give kudos to Steve Jobs for popularising the smartphone. The app is quickly becoming a new way in monetising their content. Previously, they were simply aggregating the news content from the website, but now they are adding exclusive content that you’ll have to pay a subscription to see.

Galleries, exclusive video interviews and content closed off from the mobile website – the app gives a certain degree of flexibility in what these newspapers did online. And with iOS’ new in-app purchases function, they can now offer subscriptions to such content.

However, there has been a debate on how to code the app. Should you code it as a native application on the OS, where a cut of the in-app purchases is given to Google, Apple or Microsoft; or code it in HTML5, where you can keep all the money received? I’ll let this (rap) debate show you the pros and cons.

However, don’t discount HTML5 just yet. The UK’s Financial Times has developed an entire app for HTML5. And yes, it works just like a normal app. One great thing about coding it in HTML5 is that it is cross-platform. You can simply run it in iOS or Android. But, the web can’t replicate every single piece of the iOS or Android’s API. There are some things that you want to do on your newspaper app that are exclusively on iOS, or on Android.

The Alternative?

The alternative is to stop printing and become digital only.

Like all media companies, they have to adapt to how people are consuming their media. Music has now gone digital, with iTunes and other music stores and streaming services. Television is no longer on a strict schedule as they now make their shows available online for two weeks to see in your own time. And despite the stubbornness of the movie industry, they are slowly making it possible to watch a movie on many screens (after cinema release) such as on your TV or on your iPhone.

They are essentially prolonging the inevitable – the newspaper is going away. Consumers are accessing news online and on their phones. We live in a world where we are so connected that we must know everything happening right now.

Digital is the future for newspapers, who stubbornly hold onto their obsolete methods of delivering the news.

Top Image: NS Newsflash/Flickr (Creative Commons)