The Move Away From Paper and Covering Costs

July 17, 2013

Kindle Fire HDIn the past month, I have seen a variety of scenarios that demonstrate some of the ways that the media we consume is changing. You, as a consumer of media, may not be happy with the changes. If you aren’t happy, it is something you’ll have to accept as the changes are going to continue being made. I will also explain why users feel “entitled” to something that just isn’t realistic.

A Local Newspaper

Let’s start by talking about a newspaper I read online most days. Like many of you, I have my personal interests and they are best served by a media outlet that may be far away. In this case it is a “newspaper” for a town of around 100,000 people. In days past, newspapers were supported mainly by advertisers with subscriptions helping to cover costs. Like many, I read the articles on the Web and those articles have traditionally been free.

Recently a change was made at this particular paper (Web site) so that you had to answer a one-question “survey” by Google every 24 hours in order to read the entire article. Numerous readers reacted with disgust at this change. I don’t have a chance to ask those readers directly, but let me ask a few rhetorical questions.

In the case of the sports page of this newspaper, they have at least five writers/photographers contributing articles on a regular basis and more staff to edit/post that content. Those salaries need to be paid. As they are covering sporting events, there are expenses for traveling to the games. As a newspaper, they don’t have any “products” to sell, just content of interest. Yes, there are ads appearing on the Web pages. Many users use ad-blocking software and I’ve yet to see an ad on their pages for a product or service that I could use. So if you think the ads on a Web page support the cost of the content, you are mistaken in almost every case including this one.

So if there are costs for these stories and the advertising doesn’t cover the cost, how should the newspaper generate the needed revenue? Some newspapers charge a monthly subscription to read the content online. In this case, I can only guess that the revenue from the survey is allowing them to continue to offer the articles for free and the survey requires minimal effort to keep the content free.

I know that many visitors to the Graphics Unleashed site want us to remove all ads, not sell any products and simply provide information for free. Not only do they “want” that, they feel “entitled” to this free content. The users who complain the loudest are also the ones who have never purchased anything. Does it surprise you that I listen more to visitors who are financially supportive of the work I do? Creating content has a cost and someone needs to pay for it. Complaining to content providers who are simply trying to pay for content creation without providing a viable alternative isn’t going to solve the problem. Can you afford to give away your products or services for free?

The Nation’s News(paper)

USA Today has labeled itself as “The Nation’s Newspaper” for years. Now the tagline at the top of the front page says “The Nation’s News” as they acknowledge that many readers consume the news on a screen of some sort. I have been a paid subscriber to the printed newspaper since the 80s. Like many, it is a part of my daily life to read the paper and stay current with the news.

Have you tried to read a newspaper on an airplane lately? You almost have to be a contortionist to open the paper and read it without being in the personal space of your seatmate or in the middle of the aisle. Recently I downloaded the USA Today app to my phone and Kindle tablet. With one button push, I can download all of the news for the day to the tablet. Reading the newspaper on the plane is so much easier this way!

For those who refuse to pay for content, the app is completely free (at least for now).

PC World

With my most recent issue of PC World there was an extra cover page explaining how it would be the last printed version of the magazine. I’m not surprised as the magazine has gotten thinner over the years and the number of advertisers has continued to drop. Somebody has to pay for the cost of creating and printing a full-color magazine and mailing it to subscribers. Sorry folks, but the $20 or so that they charge for a year’s subscription doesn’t even come close to covering the costs.

PC World also has an app for tablets and phones. While the app is free, the ability to download each month’s magazine requires a subscription. Yes, I would prefer a printed magazine. Yet I also understand that the move to digital allows them to continue providing the content I enjoy reading.

If your favorite content provider makes changes in the way that you receive the content, you’ll have to make a decision if you want to continue to read the content. You can stomp your feet and complain about the method the content provider has chosen to remain in business, but it will do no good. Please realize it is a business and that the folks providing the content want to keep a roof over their head and food on their table. Supporting their efforts to cover their costs isn’t really too much to ask and you might actually find it isn’t so bad.

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