Friday, June 1, 2012

Newspapers Again

What do such papers as the New York Times and Hamilton Spectator have in common? They’ve both decided to limit the number of free views to 10 stories each 30 day period. Both were formally totally free and then limited the number of free views to between 25 and 35. Now the Globe & Mail is thinking of limiting the number of free views too.

Frankly I have mixed feelings about it. I understand and am sympathetic towards newspapers seeking to improve their revenue. It has been eroding since the Internet came on the scene. Advertising income is down and so are subscriptions. Staff have been laid off and papers closed or reduced. Just this past week Postmedia announced it was cutting jobs and eliminating the Sunday editions of papers in Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa and the National Post will cut Monday editions during the summer. Obviously something has to be done to stop the bleeding.

However, newspapers, once friendly towards freelancers, have turned hostile, demanding all rights, while not increasing pay rates and not negotiating contracts. A few newspaper unions have been hostile towards freelancers too. As a result of all this the freelance community is not too sympathetic to newspapers.

Then there is the question of are they cutting their nose to spite their face? That is by limiting too much the number of free views are they destroying their audience? I no longer read anything from the New York Times or Hamilton Spectator due to their restrictive policies. Basically I can’t afford to subscribe to the online editions of the 15 or so papers I have regularly looked at.

Newspapers have tried ads, but they always seem to put the wrong kinds of ads up for me. For example one newspaper chain forced me to endure popup ads for brides. I got news for them – I’m not a bride. I’m not even female. (Some people say I’m not human, but that’s another story.)

Here’s something I don’t think has been tried – online papers offering viewers a selection of no more than three or four ads to view per visit no more than 10 seconds each. If a viewer is interested they’ll spend more than that looking. Have viewers select the types of ads they want to see. I’d really be interested in seeing grocery store ads, which I have yet to see advertised on a newspaper site.

In the meantime I think the newspaper industry needs to come up with a better model or perhaps a variety of models, one that is fair to freelancers, as well as staff, the owners and the readers. The restrictive model being tried I don’t think is the answer.