15 June 2009

Creating an Audience-Centred Enterprise

After surveying the many options being discussed for paid content and "fair use" fees from aggregators, the American Press Institute has pretty much endorsed them all, the Poynter Institute's Rick Edmonds reports.

"Newspapers can make the leap from an advertising-centered to an audience-centered enterprise" and should get on with it immediately, API concludes in a 31-page white paper for industry executives.

The report, titled Newspaper Economic Action Plan, recommends five new "doctrines":

* True Value. Establish that news content online has value by charging for it. Begin "massive experimentation with several of the most promising options."

* Fair Use. Maintain the value of professionally produced and edited content by "aggressively enforcing copyright, fair use and the right to profit from original work."

* Fair Share. Negotiate a higher price for content produced by the news industry that is aggregated and redistributed by others.

* Digital Deliverance. "Invest in technologies, platforms and systems that provide content-based e-commerce, data-sharing and other revenue generating solutions."

* Consumer Centric. Refocus on consumers and users. Shift revenue strategies from those focused on advertisers.

The API report endorses micropayments, subscriptions and hybrids of the two. In general, it emphasises the advantages of charging for what is expensive to report and edit professionally. It also suggests that a paid content wall would help retain print subscribers, citing a recent Annenberg survey finding that 22 percent of online news readers said they had dropped print subscriptions because they could get most of the same content free online.

The report argues that the readers who would be lost are mostly "fly-by users" who come to a Web site for a specific purpose and rarely return." Citing research by Belden Interactive, the report says these make up one-third of unique visits per month but only 1 percent of page views.

The same Belden study identifies a second group of online readers as "core loyalists," repeat visitors who contribute 85 percent of the page views and user sessions. That group, API reasons, values the content and could be induced to pay for it.

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