In your famous Friday media column: exclusive thoughts from Steven Brill on the future of paid online newspapers, Rebecca Dana gets a new job, newspapers die and thrive, and Bill Keller will never be on the Daily Show again.
Last night, media mogul Steven Brill sent us—unsolicited—his thoughts on the possibility of the New York Times charging for its website, which we wrote about yesterday. We will reproduce his thoughts in full, because how often do you get free, unsolicited musings from a media mogul on the area of his expertise (his new gig, Journalism Online, is all about this), even after you have derided him as usually wrong? Brill writes:
1. We have found in creating models like this for our newspaper and magazine affiliates that one of the other key advantages for them is that charging for online will actually enhance their PRINT revenues and circulation. There are two reasons: First, it allows the paper to "bundle" a discount offer for both, so that a would-be print subscriber or renewer can be offered a discount on his online subscription if he or she takes the print edition. (As in "Save 50% off the online subscription if you renew your print subscription.") You can't do that if you're not putting any value on, and not charging for, the online version. Second, if you keep giving one version (online) away for free, then you increasingly undercut sales of the other (print) version, not to mention your ability to raise the price on the newsstand, something most newspapers and magazines are trying to do. The long and short of it is that where papers have charged online in Europe and the U.S. they have enhanced their PRINT revenues. Indeed, the list of newspapers in the U.S. that have not suffered losses in print circulation lately looks like a list of those that are charging for their online versions.
2. In the models we are developing with affiliates, we show that you really needn't give up much if any online ad revenues when you charge online, because you really don't reduce your traffic much. That's because you can use a variety of methods to maintain most of your current (free) page views, such as: only charging readers who visit online more than, say, five time a month; only charging readers who visit frequently and who are outside your geographic base (locally-based online advertisers aren't paying to reach them anyway; or allowing readers to sample the first two paragraphs of a story before asking them to pay. We have created about 15 such varieties of free visits/sampling/charging methods. All of them contradict the notion of some kind of magic "pay wall" suddenly coming down and charging everyone for everything.
Rebecca Dana, reporter for the WSJ's Speakeasy blog and subject of the august paper's sultriest headcut ever, is leaving to take a job with the Daily Beast—her "dream job," she says. "I'm going to write about culture for them, with a focus on fashion. Will also do some editing and some general entertainment/media stuff," Dana tells us. She adds, "You won't have this stipple-portrait to kick around any more!" Oh?
The Claremont, NH Eagle Times folds, leaving the town without a newspaper. The Washington City Paper brushed off criticisms from witless Marion Barry fans who could not recognize the unadulterated brilliance of their latest cover. And other papers continue to try to fashion some sort of overarching editorial philosophy for the Huffington Post. Hint: It doesn't exist.
Do not expect Bill Keller to laugh and chuckle the next time a satirical cable news show comes calling! He says about his Daily Show experience: "Well, that's the last time I try to be a good sport. Even my wife told me that I looked faintly ridiculous, and she was trying to make me feel better. Among the people who would miss us most would be the wise-guy pundits and scriptwriters for satirical TV shows, because they riff on the news we produce." Bill Keller will punch Jason Jones right in the snoot, on sight.