Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Model Not the Answer for Everyone

A column (via the Washington Post) echoes conclusions in Mark Potts’ recent examination, noted here, of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s print/Web strategy, which put newspaper content online behind a pay wall. Many newspapers cite the DG’s strategy as proof that locked-down online news content can work for daily newspapers.

But paidContent argues that “if this is the best example of getting users to pay for online content, the industry may want to look for yet another model.”

The column cites the relatively minor revenue the DG receives from paid online subscribers and that publisher Walter Hussman’s strategy isn’t to become a digital product but to protect the print edition.

And while it also says that while the DG proves that some people are willing to pay for online news (about 3,400 people since 2001), it points out that Arkansas’ unique qualities as a news market have more to do with that than the paper’s overall strategy.

The attraction newspaper publishers have to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s story is that it shows someone claiming success with a single strategy, namely, that if you stop giving it all away for free, the readers will respond positively. But that paper’s situation is as unique as Newsday, USA Today and Orlando Sun Sentinel are to one another. There are hundreds of other struggling local newspapers across the country that have more in common with a steel plant than those papers. Ultimately each newspaper company (or maybe even each newspaper) will have to demonstrate its own unique content proposition?whether it’s through aggregating hyperlocal bloggers or carving out a special niche among local sports or culture. Alas, there is no one-size-fits-all solution here.

The complete column here.


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