The Globe and Mail has an article that asks that question “How much should newspapers give away?“, comparing The Wall Street Journal, The Globe and Mail, the Winnipeg Free Press, and the Medicine Hat News.
At the Winnipeg Free Press, most on-line content is available only to subscribers to the printed version of the newspaper:
“It didn’t make sense to just give away our content,” Free Press publisher Murdoch Davis said. “There is lots of stuff for free on the Web, but that doesn’t mean that an industry that has existed for well over 100 years on a paid model should simply abandon that model.”
The Free Press wants to ensure subscriptions to the printed paper do not erode, Mr. Davis said. While there is little advertising revenue generated from the site, ancillary Internet operations generate considerable cash. These include an enhanced obituary site called “Passages,” and a link for career advertisers to the Workopolis job site.
Mr. Davis is enthusiastic about a new move to sell a fully electronic version of the paper — a PDF version of each full page, with pictures, captions and so forth, as they appear in the print edition.
Mr. Davis doesn’t tell us how much subscriptions have increased as a result of his policy, or for that matter if they’ve eroded anyway. He also doesn’t really understand the web if he thinks that what everyone wants is the PDF version of the paper.
The Medicine Hat News is a bit more intelligent:
Michael Hertz, publisher of the daily Medicine Hat News in southern Alberta, said his paper’s Internet site gets about 100,000 visits a month.
It brings in about $250,000 a year in advertising, enough to generate profit after paying costs such as the salary of a “Web master.” But the paper isn’t going to start charging for access, Mr. Hertz said, because “it is a really good way for us to promote the newspaper and keep it in peoples’ sight and presence.”
Sadly, the front page of my local paper was pretty much taken up by auditions for Canadian Idol, a clone of American Idol, admittedly of local interest. Except for the op-ed page, the rest of the paper was pretty much a wash – generic CP/AP wire stories that I can get anywhere else – but nothing to really differentiate it. And their website provides nothing without a paid subscription.
The Globe and Mail seemed to have the best logic:
While The Globe offers far more free news content than the Journal does, readers must register and pay for premium material. That assures advertisers they are getting a “tight niche audience,” said Sandra Mason, vice-president of The Globe’s on-line businesses.
Like the Journal, The Globe can then charge higher rates for its on-line ads than other sites, she said.
Ms. Mason said one reason the paper has opted for a hybrid model with lots of free material is to ensure potential future Globe readers — in a younger demographic than current readers — are exposed to the paper’s content. (emphasis added)