Tagged: free

Free can be good and effective. Did I mention free?

If you are an online-type-person working at a newspaper.com have I got an offer for you.

I am working on a small research project that hopefully will turn into a case study and presentation at Poynter later this summer. The working title is: ’10 Things You Can do for Free Today.’

The project involves identifying 15 – 20 of the top ‘free’ tools being used on newspaper Web sites and then building short case study for each focused on ease of installation, use, successes and best practices. The tools most commonly mentioned so far range from Coveritlive to Qik.

If you are interested in helping out just answer a few quick questions here: Web Tools Survey


Ten things for free


I am at a workshop at Poynter this week learning about change management and coaching/training techniques. Just for a plug for the sponsor – the event is called the McCormick Change Leadership Fellowship.

The group is working today and tomorrow on developing hour long teaching modules that could potentially be used in the future at Poynter or other journalism events and conferences. We will not be building a full presentation this week, merely creating an outline and tools that we will use during the session.

This is where I need help. My session is tentatively titled: “10 Things You Can do for Free Today.” The focus will be on finding, implementing and using free software and services available on the Web to provide internal and external tools and features for use at your paper and Web site.

As part of the session I would like to provide a mini case study from different newspapers using each of the free tools and Web services. We use most of the at the Telegraph – but having a broader cross-sample to talk about would be much more valuable to attendees – and keep me from just rambling on about myself for an hour.

So – the list of possible services is below. If you are using any of them and would be willing to submit to a short email or phone interview and share some best practices and results around these products – let me know in the comments and/or by email: damon(at)kiesow.net I am also looking for any suggestions on services or categories of services that I have not gotten on the list yet.

  1. Disqus.com/Intense Debate (comments)
  2. Coveritlive.com (live chat/blog)
  3. PHPbb (open source forums)
  4. WordPress (blog)
  5. Mogulus/Ustream (live video)
  6. Qik.com (live cell phone video)
  7. OpenX (ad serving)
  8. Twitter (SMS)
  9. Google Analytics/GoogleMaps/Google Docs
  10. EditGrid (collaborative web-based data)

I know there are hundreds/thousands of others out there – I am most familiar with those in terms of good journalism uses at newspapers.



Pay walls: How does this make sense?

I am totally willing to agree that the current online news business model (e.g. publish everything for free and try and make money from eyeballs/ad revenue) has some flaws. And, the only way to find a new model or mix of models is for different organizations to try different things. Each market is different, each organization is different. Eventually it will all work out.

But, reading Business Week today Jon Fine mentions this nugget (which has been noted before):

For Subscribers Only: Locking Up the News Sites

Little Rock’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which boasts a daily circulation of around 176,000, charges a monthly fee of $4.95 for full Web access. Around 3,400 subscribers are paying for that access, which comes to just over $200,000 a year, a sum that’s two zeroes shy of being meaningful for big players.

Obviously numbers are not my strong point, but this is a big paper. Can someone explain why $200,000 is a winning business model?  More to the point – how are 3,400 online subscribers (which does not count the print subs who get online access as well) enough?

Just doing the math here with round, easy numbers: $200,000 with a $5 CPM = 40,000,000 pageviews per year. So really, assuming three ads on a page they would need 13 million pageviews a year to bring in that same revenue. Increase that CPM a bit and having a paywall looks like an anchor.

Now ArkansasOnline.com has ads on the page, and these are viewed even by non-subscribers. So, they are double dipping a bit there. But still – how many readers and page views are they giving up by being behind the paywall?

Anyone have unique visitor or page view numbers to share and compare to  other non-paywall sites of similar circulation size? I wish anyone the best who tries something new but I would like to at least be able to understand the strategy.

Update: From the Neiman Lab on 04/02/09: Paying for online news: Sorry, but the math just doesn’t work.

The Flat Earth Society

This blog post finally irritated me enough I had to rant further on it: OJR: Papers must charge for websites to survive

I intended to comment (again) on the post itself – but it has been closed. It seems like the conversation could have/ should have continued there.

Here is my original response last month:

Not to be trite but so far today I have gotten free news and weather from my TV, free traffic reports from my radio and free movie listings from a local weekly paper. Seems like charging for information might be the exception not the rule in many cases.

To be fair Mr. Storch was considerate enough to respond to almost everyone including me:

Damon, I don’t know about you but I don’t get my TV for free. I pay $123 every month to Comcast (for cable TV and Internet access). Otherwise, I wouldn’t have TV (no rabbit ears). Similarly, isn’t conventional radio fading and being eased out by the pay satellite services?

So, lets call that a ‘non denial denial.’ And perhaps further proof that Mr. Storch is not, as he freely admits, an economist. Well, I don’t even play one on TV – but I do have a set of rabbit ears available in case I need them. And, for what it is worth I don’t subscribe to satellite radio.

But, overall his analogy does seem pretty good: Comcast has built a delivery infrastructure that takes their product into every home in town. They deliver syndicated and original content and they charge their subscribers a premium for the privilege. So, why can’t newspapers do the same?

BECAUSE COMCAST IS ALREADY DOING IT! And Verizon and Roadrunner and every other ISP out there.

The exact reason people are no longer dependent on once-per-day news-on-paper is that they have an always-on broadband connection drowning them in information 24-7-365. Surely we do not all need MBAs to recognize the basic supply and demand pressures at work here?

But, lets turn the argument around. What would it hurt if we did charge for online news? To start we need to ignore two basic facts:

1) Print subscriptions subsidize delivery costs. Online distribution for news is basically free – or at least infinitely scalable at a relatively low fixed cost. In both mediums advertising has always been the revenue driver.

2) Local news is an extremely valuable product. Valuable enough that if local papers are careless, free competitors will appear in your market. All it would take is one fanatical blogger who lives for school board meetings to take a good chunk out of your newspaper’s Web traffic and prestige. Multiply that by 2 or three of your local beats and let me know how that affects your revenue growth.

Sure we can start charging for the news online. We could also double our print subscription rates or triple our advertising rates. None of those things are likely because the economics just do not make sense.

No one is arguing everything online should be free. The debate is really about who – the consumer or the advertiser –  should be paying.  Just as Comcast charges you extra for movies on-demand, there is probably a market for premium content even in local communities. But, I have yet to see the news product or feature that seems to fit the bill.