Newspapers and the Revenue Challenge

As Media Hub noted in its post, “Print Newspapers Aren’t Just for Luddites,” The New York Times’ 2014 print revenues remained substantial, with print accounting for more than 70 percent of the paper’s income. Public editor Margaret Sullivan reported that a large share of those readers, 23 percent, are in the 20s-to-40s age range.

To counter The Times’ glass-is-half-full report about print is this less-than-rosy account from the digital realm. BizReport wrote about a recent survey by location-based mobile platform Retale, in which 29% of millennials said they “never read print newspapers.” In revenue terms, only 19% of 18-34 year olds report having paid for newspaper content in print or online in the last month. Numbers are only slightly higher for 35-to-54-year-olds (24%) and those over 55 (34%). When asked about print only, respondents were even more averse to fork over for content, with 55% of millennials, 49% of 35-54-year olds, and 47% of those older than 55 “not willing to pay anything.”

Respondents were also reluctant to pay for content from “established daily newspapers” even in digital form (67%), although 27% of millennials would consider a digital subscription model, which is higher than the other age demographics surveyed. You can read more about the survey here.

This week it was revealed that The Times, Buzzfeed and National Geographic, and possibly other media companies, may be planning to test a new format that involves hosting their content directly on Facebook. The deal would enable publishers to access Facebook’s 1.4 billion users and, hopefully, capture readers from across a fragmented digital landscape. But as The Times itself reported, “(s)uch a plan would represent a leap of faith for news organizations accustomed to keeping their readers within their own ecosystems, as well as accumulating valuable data on them.” The details of the new format and revenue arrangement have yet to be revealed, but some have already expressed grave concerns, including The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer in his article, “Facebook as a Press Baron.”

Could Facebook become to newspapers what Amazon has become to book publishers?  Or are fears about a Facebook news monopoly overblown? More to come in 2015.

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