By John L. Beath
During the last quarter of 2009, an average of 72 million Web surfers—more than one-third (37 percent) of Internet users—visited newspaper sites each month, according to a custom analysis by Nielsen Online for the Newspaper Association of America. The Nielsen Online report said online newspaper readers generated more than 3.2 billion page views.
While these numbers look good for online newspapers, the statistics do not bode well for print newspapers. Newspaper publishers find themselves caught between newsprint and the digital divide. Newspaper writers increasingly find themselves between jobs as the size of newspaper staffs shrink due to lack of hard copy sales.
The pay-to-read formula for newspapers has yet to catch on. Among the nation’s larger newspapers, The Wall Street Journal and Newsday are the only publications to charge for access to portions of their Web sites. Regardless, to generate more revenue, the New York Times announced it will begin charging frequent readers for unlimited access to online content. Starting in January 2011, visitors to NYTimes.com will be allowed to read a certain number of articles for free. Newsday, a Long Island New York daily paper, spent $4 million on a Web site redesign and relaunch before putting the paper’s site behind a pay wall. Three months after their massive, very speculative investment, 35 loyal customers paid $5 per week for the service.
In early January, Times Online blocked links to its site from NewsNow.co.uk, a United Kingdom news aggregator. Last December, News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch said some think they have a right to take news content as their own without contributing a penny toward its production. Read more about Murdoch’s opinion on news aggregators here.
As newspapers fight to stay financially afloat and figure out how to profit from their online content, the fight might turn to the courts. As more pressure is placed on lawmakers to pass “no link” laws, the Internet “get it for free or die” crowd will fight to the digital death. Web sites, bloggers, YouTubers and Web site forum users are fighting back. The Right2Link Campaign explains their case at www.right2link.org.
During an interview on Wall Street Journal Radio Network last month, a college professor and independent media expert explained how newspaper investigative reporters are losing their jobs at alarming rates. The commentators even talked about government subsidies to maintain journalist checks and balances between citizens and government. Without investigative journalists, the commentators theorized that government would not be kept in check or monitored as in the past. They also spoke about studies that showed most blog stories originated from print media. Without proper print media, even bloggers would suffer and not be able to properly investigate and uncover difficult stories.
So, what should we do today to prepare for an unknown future?
For starters, every OWAA member should have a blog. Media professionals have a huge edge over non-professional bloggers. If you work for a newspaper or magazine, your blog can add value to your print work and give your readers more value. If you don’t write for a standard newspaper or magazine, a blog with original ideas and good reporting can bring traffic to your site. Turning your traffic into profits will be easier after you achieve an audience. The earlier you get started with your blog the longer you have to build your readership. For ideas on how to profit from your blog, attend the OWAA conference. This year’s conference has craft improvement seminars devoted to blogs and vlogs (video blogs).
Some people host their own blog on their Web site’s server. This works, but it is much easier to create a blog at www.blogger.com. A Blogger account is linked to Google accounts and also gets indexed in the Google search engine. Having your blog indexed in Google equals more traffic. If you have a popular site with high search rankings, Google will index and give you good rankings, even if you use WordPress instead of Blogger.
In other news…
According to an article posted at WebProNews.com, there is talk within the Internet industry that Facebook might become the new, most popular place for people to get their news. [link to article?]
News aggregates track information from select Web sites, allowing you to use a single Web page to track updates to multiple Web sites. Read a previous OU Online article about setting up an RSS feed.
Facebook users would simply set up their own custom news feed list by becoming fans of their favorite news sources. Savvy news aggregators, all of whom fight for traffic, have created Facebook fan pages. After a user joins a fan page, updates from the fan page appear on the user’s Facebook homepage new feed.
The WebProNews.com piece pointed out that if a news source willingly creates a fan page with its stories, it is much like a news aggregator.
With everyone fighting for traffic and ad revenue, and the continued digital technology advancements, only time will tell how this issue will be resolved. Either legislation and laws or marketplace will decide, or perhaps a combination of both. ◊
John L. Beath is OWAA president and owner of Pacific Lure Communications. He is a writer/photographer and owner/editor of 14 Web sites and 10 online stores. He is also an Internet marketing consultant for several businesses. Contact him at email@example.com.
By John L. Beath