The audience determines the value of content, not publishers

Why do most newspaper publishers persist in thinking audiences will come back to print?  Why do publishers put their own opinions ahead of their audiences?

You can’t get people to pay for anything if

  • they don’t need or want it
  • they can get it from somewhere else

You really don’t need a study to know that publishers value their content more than audiences do, but I’m glad the American Press Institute did one anyway.

API’s study, as reported by eMarketer, shows that news providers “were more likely to say that their content was ‘very valuable,’ while readers tended to settle on ‘somewhat valuable.'”

An opinion of “somewhat valuable” should not lead to a decision to charge for content, especially if 52 percent of newspaper site readers said that finding a replacement for newspaper site content would be “very easy” or “somewhat easy.”

What’s more discouraging is that 75 percent of publishers believe readers would go back to print.

What?  Why would publishers think this?

Because many of them are still looking at online as a necessary evil (my words, not API’s, obviously).  Twenty-eight percent of publishers think that they should charge for content to preserve print circulation.  Four percent want to do it to replace “lost display ad revenues.”

Eighteen percent think charging for content will establish “value for copyrighted content.”  I hope this means that before they set prices they will ruthlessly assess which content topics do indeed have value – to the target audiences.  I hope they are equally ruthless in identifying their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, both current and potential.

Prices shouldn’t be based on

  • what the publishers think the content’s worth
  • what would make online pay for itself
  • what’s needed to make up for lost print revenue

Setting prices and revenue goals based mainly on internal reasons is like trying to get back the purchase price and remodeling costs of a house that you love but which few others do.  With anything involving money, the market sets the price.



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