Space Ramblings

The Media Print Crisis Gets Worse

LA Times.com executive editor Meredith Artley announced last week that the paper’s website had 77.9 million page views in May. That seems like a lot. But according to the thinking at Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, it’s not nearly enough.

Online news is typically free, and advertising rates for it are comparatively low. Mr. Philips calculated that for every print reader a newspaper loses, it currently needs 100 online readers to generate the same amount of revenue. The more encouraging news is the costs of reaching those readers are less expensive through the Internet than through print — indeed, The Times of London, which recently revamped its Web site, is regularly visited by more users outside of England than within.

Another slide posited that of the millions of readers who come to various newspaper sites in a given month, a huge majority come only once, a consequence of all those referrals from search engines and aggregators. This means that a daily paper such as LAT – which has a circulation (generously) of 775,000 subscribers – would have to attract 77 million daily viewers to replace its operating revenue.

That’s a pretty painful situation and one reason why many papers are increasingly running low rent ads to accommodate their need for ad revenue. It also means that the media print crisis is going to get much worse because local papers certainly are not going to be able to replace print readers at a 1 to 100 rate. Some nationwide globally known newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and the Washington Post have a major brand but also rans like the LA Times which already has all the rep of an unpainted gutter is in big trouble.

And when your advertisers are local and your readers are a mix of local and global, the situation only becomes more chaotic. After all advertising Bob’s Barbershop to people from London or Paris doesn’t make much sense, at least not to Bob, who wants actual customers from his area and global advertising for major firms requires having a paper with a brand worth something. The international readers and non-local traffic can become a form of bandwidth drain, boosting bottom line numbers but costing far more revenue than they bring in.

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