VOICES: FREE BEFORE FREE

Files under General | Apr 12th

VOICES is one of the most read chapters of our annual global report, INNOVATIONS IN NEWSPAPERS — an idea from our New York director, Claude Erbsen.

The report devotes just two pages to the best of the best from the past year. So, I am going to start an electronic extension of this popular feature here.

Your contributions for VOICES are very welcome.

Here are the first two quotes:

From Time magazine’s Justin Fox:

“News was already pretty close to free long before the Internet came along.

It was free on TV, free on the radio, and effectively free in newspapers when you consider all the valuable stuff that came packaged with it for 25 or 50 cents, from comics to crosswords to classifieds to supermarket ads.

And unlike, say, a song–which was free on the radio but worth spending money on to be able to play again and again whenever you wanted to hear it–a day-old newspaper was usually less than worthless.”

From Scott Karp:

“Everyone is thinking about the shift in the economics of content in terms of paying for content, but what publishers are really facing is a shift in the economics of distribution.

We’re still paying for a bundle of information to be delivered to our homes — it’s just that now that bundle is traveling via fiber optic cable rather than newsprint.”

And from Jeff Jarvis:

“Don’t let anyone tell you that this is bad for the content business.

It’s only good sense.

Having worked in the magazine business, I saw this even at the dawn of the internet: As I said above, a magazine has to pay up to $30-40 in marketing costs to acquire subscribers; it can pay up to $5-7 to print and distribute a copy of a glossy magazine; it has high editorial costs.

Add that up, and a magazine can find itself in the hole $60 or more per subscriber in the first year of a subscription.

And they get as little as $1 per issue in subscription revenue.

Yet clearly, a magazine can make money because that subscriber’s value to advertisers is much greater.

It’s the relationship that is valuable.

It’s the relationship that is profitable, not the control of the content or the distribution.”



Leave a Reply