Integrating Print With Online News

Chicago could be a “paperless” city by 2015…or sooner.

Digital media is saving trees instead of jobs, while operators of the printing press brace themselves for pink slips instead of front pages.

And pretty soon, a hard copy of a newspaper could become a collector’s item.

If you think I’m being a little too cautious, guess again. Our news market is leaning towards digital sources of information instead of the time-insensitive print. The news can change so much in one minute that reporting yesterday’s events makes readers use their 75 cents for something else. But that is where newspapers can get smart and effectively monetize their offerings. If all it takes is 75 cents to a dollar to get news, then why not charge by the story?

Producers of digital media are realizing that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. That is why they are using tools like Omniture to monitor, analyze, and measure the popularity of one story over another. If people want exclusive entertainment news, then offer them that at a price. Customization is the key to delivering something valuable to consumers. A lot of times people read print and digital newspapers  for one or two kinds of stories and then discard of them. If you allow them to customize their own news experience, they would be likely to subscribe to that.

On that note, subscription models should change. Consumers might not want to commit to a yearly subscription. Instead, there should be a choice of one-week subscription. Free trials don’t do it anymore. There’s too much risk involved. You want the readers to pay something upfront even if it’s a $5.00 fee for 10 week days of news. If they really enjoy it, then they will expand their subscriptions. Some of them right renew at a later date. But if you charge folks for a one-year subscription and they hate it by the 2nd week, you probably won’t do business with them again.

I want to see online versions of local papers like The Trib, Sun Times, and Defender, offer discounts on exclusive stories. I would be willing to pay $0.50 or $0.99 for an investigative report–if it’s done the right way. So, that leads me to my next crazy idea: THE DIGITAL NEWS VENDING MACHINE.

People should be able to choose news stories just like they choose a soft drink or candy item. You just swipe your card or put in 75 cents and then you can download your customized digital newspaper. To avoid long lines, folks can access the machine’s network within a WiFi hotspot only. If I want to see the exclusive investigation on Rahm’s beef with Karen Lewis, then I can either pay money at the machine and wirelessly download it to my phone or just access the database from an iPhone/Android app.

Crazy thing is, I have a feeling somebody already beat me to the chase.


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