Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stop giving away content via Web, Walter Isaacson advises media

The old issue of how the media can be loyal to readers (who depend on them for empowering information) over corporations (which sustain them via advertisements) may have found a new sage.

Walter Isaacson, president of Washington's non-profit Aspen Institute, has offered that "to guarantee the integrity and independence" of media organizations, a prerequisite is to have "a business model that depends on revenue from the users as well as from advertisers."

Mr. Isaacson, a former editor of Time and chairman of CNN, says that regardless of the proportion of subscriptions in their revenue stream, media organizations must end the practice of giving away free content via the Web and instead return to getting paid by users. He contends it makes good business sense too:
Currently, a few newspapers -- most notably the Wall Street Journal -- charge for their online editions by requiring a monthly subscription.

When Rupert Murdoch acquired the Journal, he ruminated publicly about dropping the subscription fee. But Murdoch is a smart businessman. He took a look at the economics and decided it was lunacy to forgo the revenue -- and that was even before the online ad market began falling.

Now his move looks really smart. Paid subscriptions for the Journal's Web site were up 7 percent in a very gloomy year.
Check out the podcast here.

Time has just now (February 5 afternoon) published a cover story by Mr. Isaacson, How to Save Your Newspaper

Also just posted: A Bold, Old Idea for Saving Journalism (The Huffington Post)

Update (1 March 2009): Can selling news via the Web save the newspapers?

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