We pay for paper and news, but not online news — a little math

Leonard Witt at Kennesaw State University does a little math and asks the question (paraphrased): “Why are people willing to pay $500 a year for news on paper, but nothing for it online?”   He writes:

So let’s say the more than 300,000 subscribers of the now bankrupt Chicago Tribune got mad as hell at Sam Zell and decided they would start their own cooperative news organization. For $3 a week each they could own the journalism equivalent of the Green Bay Packers. Citizen owned journalism support by $45 million annually with each person just investing $3 a week. Do the math $3 a week or a $150 a year times 300,000 potential citizen owners equals $45 million.

Is it only because no one has asked the public to do so that this seems improbable? What would happen if unique news were no longer given away for free on the web? Would folks miss it enough to be part of a subscriber network to get it?

One response to “We pay for paper and news, but not online news — a little math

  1. 1) obviously people aren’t paying $500 a year for newspapers or they wouldn’t be going bankrupt.

    2) If a site wanted to charge $3 a week for news online, it would never work out. There are to many other sources online for free. You would have to get every news site, blog, etc, to follow the same basic pattern and that would never be possible. There will always be holes where someone can get the information. The large papers might be able to pull off a subscriber-based online business strategy…NYT, Wash Post, perhaps even Drudge to a certain level, but I think that relying upon an ‘online subscriber’ base or paid subscribers is part of the reason that print journalism is currently taking a hit. People don’t need all the AP articles, they don’t want to read all the ‘filler’ material that goes into a newspaper. The Internet has given them the choice of what they want to read and when they want it. They don’t have to buy into the whole program or own the whole issue to get the news they want. It is different times that require a completely different business model to survive. If newspapers want to run their sites like their newspapers…they simply will not be successful online.

    Thanks for the good discussion.

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