Tag Archives: online publishing

Why can’t The New York Times be like iTunes?

Everyone knows newspapers are in trouble.  The business model based on advertising revenues that served them well for decades no longer works in a world where people can get their news online for free and audiences are fragmented like never before.

What’s a newspaper to do?

Well, one thing is to try and force people to subscribe to online editions, as Rupert Murdoch would like, by not letting content loose for free, not even in your Google news feed.  That’s one model, and it seems to work for The Wall Street Journal.  Whether it will work for Murdoch’s other newspaper properties is another question.

But a better model might be to be more like iTunes.  I can’t imagine that someone hasn’t already thought of an iTunes-like model for newspaper content before, but I haven’t seen one.  If you know of one, please leave a comment.

Here’s what I imagine. Each day I receive a digital copy of, say, The New York Times.  It’s organized as I remember seeing it on the Kindle.  (I don’t have a Kindle – yet.)  There’s an initial page that lists the sections of the newspaper.  By clicking on a section, I then get a list of the article headlines, perhaps with the first one or two sentences of the article itself.  If I decide I want to read it, I click on it and a charge is automatically deducted from my New York Times online account.  I might also  subscribe to one or more sections, if I wish, rather than the whole paper.  Or even to specific topics, or a particular columnist or reporter.

Simple. I click and pay only for the content I read.  For the stuff I don’t read, I don’t pay.

How much would The Times charge per article?  25 cents? 10 cents? 2 cents?  (That would certainly give new meaning to “getting my 2 cents worth”!)  It’s hard to say.  They would probably have to experiment with different price points to see where the sweet spot is – where they get the greatest volume of click-through’s from the greatest number of readers.  But I could imagine that when people only pay for the parts of The Times they want to read, and the price threshold for that is fairly low, “pay per article” could potentially generate volume and revenues exceeding an online subscription model.  iTunes certainly made a killing, one 99-cent download at a time.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually still love newspapers.  I’m old fashioned.  I enjoy getting the whole paper, touching the actual paper, leafing through it on my sofa, discovering stories of interest that I would have missed if I preselected the content through an RSS feed.  And I also want to know that my news provider is trustworthy, which means it has an organization in place that upholds certain journalistic standards, checks facts, investigates stories.  That costs money and requires a healthy revenue stream.

iTunes freed people from shelling out the money for a whole CD when all they really wanted to hear were one or two songs. And made lots of money.  So maybe being like iTunes is a way for newspapers to generate the revenue that maintains quality, depth and breadth of content, in a world where more and more people want to pick, choose and pay only for the part of that content that’s relevant to them.  All I have to do is give up the paper.  But since I also love trees, that isn’t a bad thing either.

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From podcast to publication — the social media success story behind J.C. Hutchins’ The 7th Son

The 7th Son

I just received the first 10 chapters of J.C. Hutchins newly published thriller, The 7th Son: Descent, in a free, down-loadable “special edition” pdf.  It was sent to me courtesy of CC Chapman’s podcast Managing the Gray.  I say newly published, because the novel has been around for awhile.

Hutchins originally released it as a serialized podcast, also for free.  From those humble beginnings the story’s fan base spread through online word-of-mouth until it eventually caught the attention of a “real” publisher, St. Martin’s Press.  It is “now in bookstores everywhere,” as they say.

Hutchins’ web site, J.C. Hutchins Thriller Novelist, is highly interactive, providing links and downloads, updating fans on the novel’s progress —  e.g.  Amazon ratings, recent reviews and the like — and even has a section called “evangelize,” where fans will soon find tools for spreading further world of mouth.

It’s a wonderful case study in how online social connections can build a groundswell of support for an aspiring novelist’s work that eventually leads to publication by a recognized institution of the trade with access to an even wider audience. Interesting that despite everyone talking about the democratization of content and the wisdom of the crowd, the ultimate “legitimization” of a work of fiction, or for that matter non-fiction, still seems to be if it is picked up by an “old media” publisher and gets reviewed by the likes of  The New York Times and Publishers Weekly.  Why is that?  Deep down inside, do we still rely on the official arbiters of literature to tell us if something is good or not?

Despite the fact that Hutchins can now earn money on his work in book form, he continues to offer it for free as a podcast or pdf.  I admire his generosity and idealism, and I hope, for the sake of his bank account, that there will be enough readers who are willing to spend $14,99 to read the novel in what for many is still the most enjoyable format of all, words on a printed page between two covers of a book.

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