Monday, March 02, 2009

More about iTunes for publishing

The iTunes for newspaper publishing idea is taken up by David Carr in the New York Times.

The only trouble is, the examples he cites as successful examples of getting readers to pay for content involve either magazines or a highly specialised newspaper:

Other print publications have looked directly to the reader to help bear that cost. Cook’s Illustrated is a delightfully retro magazine that takes a modern approach to food. And its approach to publishing? Cook’s Illustrated takes no ads and charges for access to the databank of recipes. Apart from its 900,000 print subscribers, in addition to 100,000 or so newsstand buyers, the company has 260,000 digital subscribers at a cost of $35 a year, and that group grew by 30 percent in 2008.

I get Cook’s Illustrated at the office and don’t have access to the deep digital archive of recipes, but I’ve thought about how handy online access would be in the kitchen. Similarly, I subscribe to Consumer Reports because it has valuable content that I can’t get anywhere else. Both Cook’s and Consumer Reports have set a trend in part because they had no ads to begin with, so turning toward their readers to pay for operations and future growth made sense.

But I also subscribe to The Wall Street Journal, one of the few pay newspaper sites. I could cobble together a free version — you can get behind the firewall at The Journal if you go through Google News and know exactly what you are looking for — but I chose to pay the freight. To me, paying for content I want online is not all that different from paying for a DropSend account, which allows me to send and receive large files: the paid option outweighs the hassle and time of the free ones.
David Lazarus follows a similar line of thought in his LA Times article.

Luckily we in the UK have Martin Belam's Currybetdotnet to put a sensible gloss on their arguments.

Yes, an iTunes/Amazon Marketplace idea is worth pursuing - but newspapers, on the whole, are not differentiated enough to take advantage of an open marketplace. Somehow, that idea is almost as ironically funny as Max Hastings (former editor of the Daily Torygraph) writing about the effects of unregulated financial markets on the value of his pension.

I especially love this sentence: "Even back in the 1980s, this notion rang alarm bells with some of us." Well, Max, you didn't do much about it, did you?

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