Newspapers are now charities

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I found this advert at the bottom of a Guardian article rather interesting. Could it be that allowing free consumption of their newspaper is self inflicted? That their articles may not attract a paying audience because much of the mainstream media shares the same view? It rings of the same claim of self assessed quality as the NY Times which has been offering a year’s subscription for 50-60% off for months.

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The funny thing with ratings is that Murdoch papers seem far more driven by the pay-per-view/read model whereas Fairfax gives more of its content away for free. Even if the ratings of Murdoch papers might fall behind that of Fairfax on gross readership (i.e. Sydney Morning Herald (418k/day) has higher readership than The Australian (336k/day)) clearly profitability is driven by those willing to pay. SMH gives online readers 10 free articles a month.

It is very simple. If The Guardian offered a differentiated but balanced opinion that was valued by readers and not the editor (a very important distinction) perhaps they wouldn’t need to ask for charity. Media consumption is rapidly changing but for papers like this to revert to begging readers to chip in (crowdfunding?) proves they have their strategy back-to-front. People will pay for things they value. If advertising revenues are hard to come by don’t think your growing readership stats give you a leg up in bidding for the dwindling dollar. On my blog I can cut, dice and slice data in such a way that tells me how many seconds some readers spend. I would prefer fewer readers to absorb what I write rather than click for 3 seconds and give me merely higher hit rates.

In any event welcome to the new world of media where everything is someone else’s fault but to those bludgers sucking off the free media teat can you chip in so we can stay in our echo chamber and live in our own denial that our product may not be as good as we think it is.

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