Friday, December 21, 2012

The coming death of seven-day publication

First posted at Nieman Journalism Lab

Update: On Dec. 28, 2012, I appeared on the John Gambling show on WOR radio, New York, to talk about these predictions. Here's a podcast of our talk.

My (newspaper-centric) predictions for 2013 in a nutshell:
  • Because of the rapid adoption curve of tablets and the convenience of news consumption on them, the business model for seven-day printed newspapers in most markets is toast. We’ll start to see frequency reductions to two or three days a week at an accelerated pace. By the end of 2015, fewer than half of the current dailies will still be on that schedule.
  • While we’re still seeing more papers hopping on the paywall bandwagon, there will be a growing realization that simple paywalls that just provide access to the content of a single newspaper are not the answer. Sopaywalls will begin to morph into membership models, where subscribers get access not only to content but to a range of services and benefits.
  • As part of membership thinking, newspapers will finally start adopting the “jobs to be done” thinking advocated in the American Press Institute’sNewspaper Next project (2005-2008) — the idea that the resources of the news organization can address a wide variety of problems that readers and advertisers need solutions to.
  • Membership thinking will also encourage the idea of paid (or unpaid) access to content from a network or cooperative of news organizations — sort of an E-ZPass approach, in which your paid digital subscription at a local news site might also provide you with access to regional and national news sources along with topical news from sites that specialize in business, finance, travel, sports, food, design, or whatever suits your fancy.

Let’s look at each of these in detail.
Frequency reductions
I’ve been suggesting since 2008 that to transition from a print-centric business model to a digital-centric one, newspapers need to go through an essential and strategic transition: cut print publication from six or seven days a week to two or three days. And when they do this, the printed product should be understood as a niche byproduct of a news organization that understands itself as being above all a digital-first enterprise.