Hope For The Newspaper Industry?

Everyone realizes that the newspaper industry is in trouble. Many people are receiving news on line for free as opposed to purchasing newspapers. This is not a sustainable situation as, while there is some legitimate reporting from on line sources, the vast majority of news on line does come from the ailing newspapers.

Many newspapers are in financial trouble. Some such Newsday and the Hearst newspapers are now talking about charging for at least some of their content. Attempts to charge for on line access have not worked very well.  I do pay for an online subscription to The Wall Street Journal, seeing this as a bargain as it costs far less than I previously paid for a physical subscription. The Wall Street Journal is a national newspaper which does provide far more value than most papers (despite their extremist editorial page), placing them in a far better position than most to make money by charging for subscriptions. I also paid for access to the opinion sections of The New York Times but far too few others did for this experiment to succeed.

So far few on line publications have been able to make a profit by charging for access and most hope to make some money off of advertising revenue. This will hardly be enough to solve the problems faced by the newspapers, but The New York Times does report on a joint effort between newspapers and Yahoo to sell on line advertising:

Terry Widener has been selling newspaper ads for 35 years. But until last fall, Ms. Widener, a 53-year-old saleswoman at The Knoxville News Sentinel in Knoxville, Tenn., had never sold an Internet ad.

Then in a two-week sales “blitz” intended to test an innovative partnership between newspapers and Yahoo, she persuaded advertisers to buy $200,000 in online ads that ran on the paper’s Web site and on Yahoo. That represented about a seventh of the amount she typically sells in an entire year.

“I’m pretty much from the old school,” Ms. Widener said. “It was such a learning experience. Hopefully I am going to sell more and more online.”

Many newspaper owners and publishers have similar hopes. They say that the partnership with Yahoo is one of the only bright spots in an otherwise horrible advertising market.

Through the partnership, ad salespeople at newspapers pitch local businesses on advertising packages that let them reach visitors to the newspapers’ Web sites and Yahoo users in the area. The newspapers also use Yahoo technology that lets them charge more for ads on their sites.

A similar sales blitz at The Ventura County Star, a small daily north of Los Angeles, netted nearly $1 million in sales in the run-up to Christmas, or roughly 40 percent of what the paper sold in online ads in 2008. The Naples Daily News in Florida did even better: The late-January blitz generated $2 million in sales, or more than half what the paper sold online in 2008. Some larger newspapers have had similar successes.

Google is also looking at ways to make more money off on on line news, but their efforts are seen more as competing with publishers for advertising dollars as opposed to Yahoo’s joint efforts.

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