Is it time all newspapers were free?
For a long time, and as a newspaper/magazine publisher myself, I've held the opinion that people no longer want to pay for their news. I think that’s become as obvious as the nose on one's face and there's plenty of evidence to support my claim.
Note, I said I believe people don't want to pay for their news, not that they're not interested in getting it, or indeed reading it. In fact, my firm belief is that people generally, are still very interested in reading newspapers and magazines and news generally. If that wasn't the case, magazines like Orange City Life and free news websites would be losing readers hand over fist, and they're not. Our circulation, readership if you prefer, hasn't dropped in all the ten years we've been here. Free news websites too are constantly boasting zillions of hits and although I believe many of these are used by publishers to provide gross distortions of reality, they do nonetheless generate a lot of traffic.
It saddens me when I see how, even the newspaper publishers themselves, fan negative publicity about the decline of newspaper sales and the drop in advertising revenue. I'd like to see them better stating their case by putting what's happening in a right context.
Good sense says that advertising revenue will obviously drop if, at one time say 6,000 local people are known to buy the local newspaper, and a few years later that number has dropped down to nearer 2,000 people. Good sense also says that advertising will drop when readers are used to seeing up to 100 pages in their local newspaper for the $1 or so they pay for it, and then finding one day that it now costs closer to $2 and it's down to around 20 pages each issue. People aren't stupid, especially when on face value, the differences are so blatantly obvious.
While ever publishers let things drift down that path, the inevitable must surely happen, extinction. But in my opinion, it doesn't have to be that way.
Imagine if local newspapers adopted the OC Life model and decided to provide them free, and simply relied on advertising to fund them? My contention is that if local newspapers could be provided to their communities at no cost in places like Orange, the pick-up rate would be up to 5 or 6 times greater. This in turn would lead to advertisers taking notice again and so on and so on.
That said, let me be clear. It costs a good deal of money to produce newspapers and magazines like OC Life, and by selling newspapers, that lightens the cost burdens for publishers who choose to sell their products. The problem, as mentioned at the beginning, is that newspapers that are sold are slowly becoming extinct, and in my opinion, hoping that one day readers in sufficient numbers will again be willing to pay for them, well that's just dreaming.
Newspaper owners aren't the only ones facing new challenges in these changing times but so far, their method of choice for fighting the battle, appears to have been to slash and burn. We all know how that's working, don't we?
Maybe if they thought less about slashing and burning, and a lot harder about how they could provide their publications free, they might come up with the answer, one that would quickly see the popularity, readership, respect and advertiser base they once had, return?