Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Good argument for not giving away the store

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman on Monday made a strong pitch for newspapers to make web sites into places of added-value contents complementing their print 'parents' instead of billboards that compete with the origin of the resources that create most Internet news content.

Some may view as extreme his suggestion that newspapers charge something for some of their material, but it's no more illogical than spending money to do the reporting, writing, editing, photography, design and so on, then presenting it at no charge to the world.

Surely there's a practical middle ground in journalism that blends storytelling through various media and commerce.

Those who argue that a new business model or revenue stream are imminent should recall Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarence Page's cautionary comment while visiting Western last month. He said that the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers generate $500-$900 in revenue per subscriber annually, but a newspaper's web site generates $5-$10 per unique visitor a year.

Hussman's newspaper, like the Wall Street Journal, offers free headlines and some free summaries (plus free classified ads), but charges for web subscriptions.

Read his whole piece here -- http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110010038