Recent NAA/Nielsen stats show that in the US, newspaper sites account for less than 1% of all page views and time spent on the Internet.
Dismal? Yes. Surprising? No. Nothing is less engaging than the average mainstream media news site. Aside from comments and user profiles, very few news sites are truly dedicated to engaging readers. Businessweek.com is a rare example of how to do this brilliantly.
Engaged users results in more time spent on site, better discussion and commenting and better results for advertisers. But rather than thinking of how they can create value through engaging users, discussions at an increasing number of MSM companies are turning to “how can we make them pay for content”.
Rupert Murdoch uses the Daily Telegraph’s scoop on outrageous MP spending, as an example of news people will pay for.
Let’s examine that. How often does news of that magnitude happen? Ten times a year? Five times a year? Twice a year? And how many people are willing to pay an annual subscription for the odd scoop of that magnitude? Not enough.
Now Murdoch says that he will only charge for the big, original news stories and the rest of the content will be free. This sounds more like a gesture to make a point about the value of content than an actual business model.
The printed edition of the Telegraph had a big sales bump the day that scoop was published, but I wonder what proportion of people actually read that content in the paper or on telegraph.co.uk, and what proportion heard about it on the TV news or read about it on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and on other websites? Do most people need to read the Telegraph’s account, or are they content with reading someone else’s analysis? In a paid content world how could you keep the audience from discovering the content on other, free media? Marburger solution aside….
Deciding that the reader is an enemy who is stealing from the media and “should” be paying for it is a strategy that will cause much greater harm than good for the news sites. Sure, a small percentage will pay for access to that big news story. Many of them will blog/Twitter about it, TV stations will report on it, etc. Conversations will pop up all over the web, just not on the site where the story originated.
How does that make sense?