Monday, August 17, 2009

Turning Distribution Into Revenue

The thing about journalism is this: reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

People continue to want news. They just don't necessarily want it in print form.

It's too slow. It's about what happened yesterday, after all.

It's not convenient. You can have it delivered to your home or office or pick it up from a newsstand -- but the printed newspaper isn't available on your smart phone, your iPod, etc.

It's too expensive.

What's interesting is that technology has transformed the first two complaints: you can now get real-time news updates and you can access it on your smart phone, on e-readers like Kindle, etc.

Technology has improved distribution of the news. But while it has brought some costs down significantly, technology still hasn't generated revenue streams to pay for the news.

Even providing an iPhone App hasn't solved the revenue question, as reported in the New York Times, "There’s an App for That. But a Revenue Stream?" Check out "For Murdoch, It’s Try, Try Again" by the Times' David Carr, which looks at ways Murdoch, the Times, Boston Globe and others are thinking about getting consumers to pay for news content.

As Murdoch told the Times, "Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalizing its ability to produce good reporting. The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels but it has not made content free. We intend to charge for all our news Web sites.”

By doing so, Murdoch and others will establish a wall that will prevent search engines from finding the content, and reduce the number of people able to access that content. Then it will become more important for PR functions to use social media to raise awareness of the coverage about their client or organization.

Still, the first challenge is to get people to pay for general news. Check out a New York Times article from today about the Financial Times, "Financial Times Feels Vindicated by Web Strategy," which looks at how the FT's strategy of putting its content behind a pay wall has been paying off. Up next for the FT is a system of micropayments.

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