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This is a look at the print publishing business model. It is a simplified description, but understand the big picture is more important than the details.


Historically print publishers earned revenue from copy sales and advertising. Some publishers, mainly in the trade press, rely solely on advertising.

Others, such as book publishers, rely solely on copy sales. Most newspapers and magazines make money from a mix of the two. Historically newspapers published in the UK would make almost all their monty from copy sales. In the rest of the world advertising is more important.

The balance between advertising and copy sales revenue usually determines a title’s editorial strategy. One important part of this is that when the money comes mainly from readers, then serving their interests is unquestionable. When money mainly comes from advertisers there is always a temptation to pander to their needs over reader needs.

The revenue part of a publication’s business model is simple:

Revenue = copy sales + advertising sales

Publishers who rely mainly on copy sales for their income typically spend more on producing quality editorial to attract readers.

Advertising-focused publishers put less emphasis on editorial. In extreme cases, they do away with editorial all together producing publications which closely resemble catalogues.

Not only did Australia’s two main print news media organisations reject Amazon’s Kindle book reader, both made their rejection public.

Fairfax went overboard, publishing versions of the story in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and on its youth-focused site, The Vine. The story didn’t run in The Australian Financial Review.

News Corporation has been less vocal, although Rupert Murdoch did mention his dissatisfaction with the Kindle reader in comments after his company’s annual results.

As this story in The Sydney Morning Herald explains, the problem is Amazon wants to clip the ticket by too much. Some reports suggest the company takes as much as 70 percent of the price of ebook sales and is seeking similar high margins from newspaper subscriptions.

Sony and Apple are possible alternatives. Apple charges 30 percent. One aspect of this story is the assumption people will want to read online newspapers via a special reader and not with a PC or smartphone.

Kindle Rejected By Australian Newspapers | Fairfax Media, News Corporation.

Canadian public relations practitioner Dave Fleet says Twitter has moved through the Gartner Hype Cycle. It is now at the point where it could quickly become unfashionable. In his  Five Potential Effects Of Twitter’s Shift To The Trough Of Disillusionment.  Fleet charts the technology’s progress and predicts what will happen next.

At first sight, Fleet’s analysis seems to be on the money. But there’s something else going on with Twitter. After a period of stability, the service is changing. Earlier this week the company altered the way users propagate messages. This changes the process known as retweeting.

In other words, Twitter is still evolving. It will probably be a different beast by the time it resumes its progress through the later stages of the Gartner Hype Cycle. Or maybe something else will replace it.

Sport could be the secret weapon as newspapers campaign to get readers to pay for online content.

Like business, sport is a media niche where people already expect to pay for coverage.

It has already worked for television. Here in New Zealand there is almost no live sport on free to air television other than international netball. Rugby, cricket, rugby league, soccer, golf and tennis are only shown live on pay TV.

In other words, if Kiwis wants to watch TV sport, they have to pay – and it isn’t cheap.

People seem willing to pay a premium to watch sport on TV more than other forms of entertainment. That’s partly because of the nature of the beast – a game with an unknown result is exciting. Watching it the next day, or a few hours later, when the score is known just isn’t the same.

Newspapers can’t compete directly with TV when it comes to capturing that drama, but I suspect people would pay to have access to first class analysis, high quality games stats and live blog or Twitter style coverage of key matches.

An example of how this can work is the way the BBC runs live, online ball-by-ball coverage of cricket test matches. Until ESPN acquired Cricnfo, the site ran similar coverage and managed to sell a number of value-added extras to subscribers.

It wouldn’t be hard to stick sports journalism behind a paywall.

Sports writing operates along slightly different lines to other types of journalism. Sports codes and the big clubs jealously guard access to personalities for interviews, photos and other matters. Publications who don’t, er, play ball, can find themselves on the outer. Some types of coverage are not welcomed and many sports have control over coverage.

A sports governing body could easily license exclusive coverage to one or more newspaper group – clubs could do the same. News Corporation already has interests in sporting codes and clubs.

This idea has one major drawback. Moving sport from free-to-air to pay-TV damages some games at a grass-roots level – sticking online media coverage behind a paywall may only make matters worse. But that’s another issue..