Being Good At Media Criticism Doesn't Always Mean Being Good At Media Strategy

from the focus-on-the-paper? dept

Plenty of paper based publications are struggling to figure out how to play in the internet world. While offline subscription revenue is still important, publications have to realize that it’s a revenue stream that is likely to dwindle over time. Surprisingly, though, the Columbia Journalism Review, has decided to bet in the other direction. The dean of the journalism school there has decided to cut the budget of the publications popular website cjrdaily.org in half, causing its two top editors to quit. Instead of investing in the future, Columbia plans to use that money on a direct mail campaign to try to drum up more subscribers to the paper magazine. You can understand the basic reasoning, if you look at the decision as a snapshot today. Paper subscriptions bring in revenue. The website, so far, has no ads — and probably doesn’t generate enough traffic (only 500k page views per month) to make any serious ad revenue in the near future. However, if you look at it from a trend perspective, it seems risky. Paper subscriptions for publications is still a dwindling market, and investing in online properties — including experimenting with new business models, seems like a bet worth making these days. That doesn’t mean ignoring the paper side of the business — but recognizing that the bang for the buck in a direct mail campaign is likely to be pretty low. From a long term perspective, putting a bigger effort into online properties seems to make more sense.


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Comments on “Being Good At Media Criticism Doesn't Always Mean Being Good At Media Strategy”

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8 Comments
Sohrab says:

I think this is one of the most fair sided opinions ive read on here in a while, instead of blasting the living hell out of group or company X. I think the big problem though is that while the paper side is indeed slowly dying, companies are not real sure how to generate the cash from the online world either, thus causing them to take such actions like this.

They would rather invest in a known working format then the unknown but that will hurt them in the long run like you stated. Its a tough one to juggle.

Ryan says:

Scientific journals are surviving through online s

In the scientific community, peer-reviewed journals are essential to the dissemination of new knowledge/information. These journals (such as Nature, Science, Cell, Journal of Neuroscience, etc) require an online subscription to view most of its article on the web and to download it as a pdf file. The subscriptions are either purchased by the individual or by an institution (such as a college or private company). The type of subscription varies also: full journal, per-article, or limited access. A full journal subscription could be as much as $250 annually. Some charge as much as $30 to view/download one article or to have a few hours of access to search through to the entire journal.

These journals that once relied on paper-based subscription are surviving the digital age and popularity of the internet because of their reputation and great demand for a specific group of people to read those articles. Scientists and other specialists need those articles for their research, job duties, or just mere intellectual development. Online subscriptions are becoming popular among those journals because of easy accessibility. Who wants to go through the hassle of going to the library, locating the specific journal issue among the dusty binds of journal issues, flipping through the pages to find the specific article, and photocopying it? Instead, with my own subscription or VPN access to my job web network to use the university subscription, I can search through the journal’s webpage, download the article, and print it within a few seconds. The electronic version is definitely better than the paper version.

Aside from easy accessibility, the electronic version is better than the paper version of a journal because the cost of production is cheaper. Paper and ink are expensive but word processor, visual editor, and wedpage development softwares are cheaper since they can be used over and over again. Also, not everyone reads the whole entire journal issue. For example, I tend to read just read one or two articles and a few of the news tidbit in a paper version. With the electronic version, I print out the article I need and read the rest on the webpage; this reduces paper consumption, which is good for our environment.

For other popular magazines and newspaper to survive, they have to specialize in a particular field to create a big demand to win online subscriptions. Another option would be to have several magazines and newspapers create a partnership and offer an online subscription for a nominal fee to have access to all their publications. Magazines and newspaper would either need to specialize or partner up for them to survive the digital age aside from depending on revenues from advertizement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Hmm… I would agree that many of us still prefer to read magazines on print. I think that the only reason why we have that preference is because we grew up with that type of medium in acquiring information. But I think as the digital age progresses and the internet becomes more integral in many people’s lives, the more society will prefer towards an electronic version than a print version of publications. It will take time for the transition to occur. But we are already seeing such transition to be happening, particularly in the scientific community, where process of acquiring a journal becomes a hybrid of both the electronic and paper preferences. Instead of going to the library and physically locating the article through bound journals, most of the scientists today locates the article online and prints out the article rather that reading the whole entire article in the web. I personally do this because I like to take the articles I print out from the web and read them at home or as reading material when I am traveling.

For me, I prefer getting my journal articles online since I save a lot of time. I can read excerpts of the article before printing it out to make sure it’s something I want to read. Because I print them out, I still have this preference for the paper version. I like to highlight and write comments on the paper, which I can’t do from the web. But I can download the pdf file and use Adobe Acrobat to make my markings. I am slowling transitioning to that. But I know that not many people have whole Adobe Acrobat software except the reader.

With companies and engineers attempting to generate a paper-like computer screen and the younger generation are being expose to computers and the web earlier in life, I can see how our world will become more reliant on electronic publication rather than print publication. It will take some time and new technology though, which is emerging.

Sanguine Dream says:

Good point Ryan

The scientifc community benefits greatly from online journalism. If a scientist in England wants to keep up with the research of a scientist in America all he/she has to do is subscribe to their online journal instead of trying to find a way to get his/her hands on the printed document. Online journals really help the scientific community spread the word on their research.

I think it’s too soon to completely abandon the traditional paper format but this would be the time to invest in them both.

Ryan says:

Re: Good point Ryan

Oppps… the response from evil was from me as well, but I forgot to type my name.

Anyways, i do agree that it might be too soon to completely abondon print publication. But avoiding such transition would be detrimental. Rememeber what happened to Kodak when it did not invest in the early development of digital imaging and photography. It suffered greatly and is still suffering as it invest more (even though it jumped the bandwagon later than most companies) in the new technology. Journalism schools would have to change as well in its pedagogy to accommidate the new emerging technology. In fact, colleges such as RIT is doing that through its programs in new media publishing and others.

mark says:

wrong approach

I agree with the article whole heartedly that this is a short term view. Obviously budget is a concern but I would first look at what efforts are being made to drive eyeeballs to the website. Is there exclusive web content? Can users interact with the site at all? Are there cross channel tie ins, i.e. an online poll that gets published in the print additions?

Too often these decisions are viewed as an either/or proposition. Yes it takes funding to keep an online presence but if you are creative and give readers a reason to go online you not only prepare yourself long term for the ALL digital media age but you also can potetentially solve the short term dilemna by making an advertsiing based business model more viable.

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