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Newspapers Hold Out Hope for Paid Models

Readers may have different ideas

Everyone agrees that the newspaper industry is struggling. What they disagree about, sometimes vehemently, is the solution: going online-only, seeking nonprofit status and taking advantage of tax breaks, removing information from search engine results, or charging for content.

While paid models are not currently very popular, a surprising number of North American papers are considering charging for online content according to the preliminary results of an American Press Institute (API) study conducted by ITZ Publishing and Belden Interactive. Nearly 60% of member publishers polled by the API were considering charging for content that was currently free, and one-quarter expected to have a paid strategy in place within six months.

Paid content strategies were seen as important for capturing new revenues and preserving print readership, as well as for establishing the value of copyrighted content, a major concern voiced by news organizations amid the popularity of social media and blogs.

But when the API compared its members’ opinions to those of newspaper readers, as captured in Belden Interactive’s 2009 Local Market Surveys, value perceptions differed. News providers were more likely to say their content was “very valuable,” while readers tended to settle on “somewhat valuable.” Even bigger variation exists in perceptions of how easy it would be to replace online newspaper content, with readers more confident that they could live without the information currently provided.

Providers expected their readers to turn to print newspapers (75%) and other local media sites (55%) if their local newspaper site were no longer available. But readers had other ideas: Only 30% said they would pick up a print copy of the paper, compared with 68% who would go to other local Websites and 45% who would turn on the TV.

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Check out today’s other article, “Deep Brand Engagement Creates Customers.”

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