Look outside

Although pay walls will not save publishing, publishers do need to find a way to charge for content. We’ve written a number of posts about the topic, including:

Better, not bigger;

Tumblin’ down (something there is that does not love a wall); and

The reader decides.

The value of charging for circulation is made clear with Newsweek, which the Washington Post is working to sell. The magazine, a product of low circulation prices and declining ad revenue, is reportedly losing millions of dollars annually.

Recent bids have come from a number of places, none of them “traditional” publishers, who may figure that turning around the circulation story is tough sledding, at best. But getting people to pay more really is key.

At the New York Times, David Carr offers his perspective on what Newsweek could do to improve the magazine’s value proposition (a precursor to getting people to pay more). Although he doesn’t link his ideas to circ price, Carr’s eight suggestions at least provide an alternative to the current approach, which isn’t working.

You don’t have to go very far to find a magazine that has figured out a way to align value and price. The Week, created in the last decade, provides an effective overview of current events for $50 a year (more if you renew).

The Week demonstrates that it is possible to charge for content, if the content you charge for is valued by the people whose wallets you’d like to tap. The Week solves a problem for a cross-section of people who want a simple summary of what happened last week. That’s their “brand”.

That doesn’t mean that Newsweek should try to become The Week, or for that matter, the Economist. As Carr notes, spots like that are taken.

But if Newsweek is going to survive, it will have to find a way to improve its perceived value and increase its circulation price. That effort starts with the reader. Whoever buys Newsweek will have to look outside first to build value within.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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