We are at a crossroads right now in the economic sense. The signs are everywhere you look. Seemingly rich companies that have survived for decades, even longer, are going bankrupt. People like General Motors and other automakers that at one time had unlimited sources of capital or begging for handouts from the government.
All is not bad, though. We are in a time when relatively small players who were inconsequential ten years ago are doing very well. There are grandmas who are cleaning up on eBay. People who lost their jobs in the ’90s never went back to work, instead, they used the Internet to create their own empires. People who started out as nothing ten years ago started blogging and became A-list bloggers who are world known today and earning tons of money from blogging and other such activities.
The world has changed. Notice, I did not say it is changing, I believe it has already changed. We are still experiencing ongoing change, but the fundamental change has already happened, it’s just that not that many people realize it yet.
While doing my scan of the world’s news this morning after I woke up, I found a couple of news items that interested me. First, I noticed that the Rocky Mountain News, a huge newspaper in Denver has announced that they are shutting down. Newspapers worldwide are in trouble these days, losing a lot of money. The Rocky Mountain News could not afford to bleed money anymore, so they are closing. At the same time, Newsday announced that they will start charging for people to read their website.
What does all this mean? Are we seeing the total demise of publishing? No, we are not. We are experiencing change (Obama promised change while running for office, right?). Change already happened when the newspapers went online. People read online and don’t buy papers as much as they used to. The beauty now is that you can follow a newspaper no matter where you are. If you are living in the Philippines as I do, you can still read the Wall Street Journal, or even a small town newspaper in Wisconsin if that is what you want to read. You don’t have to wait for it in the mail, or spend huge money to have it delivered – you just flip on your computer and read it.
We are in between profitable publishing models right now. The old reliable model of print media that is mostly ad-supported is waning. It’s outdated and will be going away, just ask the workers at the Rocky Mountain News! Right now, we don’t have a viable, profitable publishing model. Sure, things like Google ads are great for small publishers like me, but for a huge company like Rocky Mountain News, they are not yet large enough to support such a business.
I believe that Newsday has at least part of the answer. I believe and have believed for a couple of years now that we are on the verge of having paid content to sweep the net. Any site online that is truly a quality site will be charging a subscription fee in the next 5 to 10 years. I believe that the ball will start rolling in this direction in 2009, and Newsday is probably a sign of that. Nobody works for free, nor should they. Yes, the Internet has largely been free for a long time now, but it simply cannot stay that way forever. As print publications move to internet-only, they must find ways to make enough money to keep the publication going and keep food on their worker’s tables. There is no other way for things to progress.
A lot of people will fret about this and complain that they will never pay for Internet Content. Let them complain. Frankly, I am excited to see this coming, and I do believe that it is coming, and will be the norm in a few years. I produce content on a number of sites, and I should earn from that. Now, a site like this, where I only post from time to time probably is not a good candidate for a subscription model. However, I have other sites that really should be paid content right now, in my opinion. Quality content. Regular content. Lots of readers. I believe a site like that can indeed support such a model.
If you are a publisher of web-based content, I believe that the days are coming when it will be easier for you to earn money on the web. A shift in the way people think is on the horizon. Don’t get left behind!
I think you are solidly on target, Bob when you say change is already here. Many of us don’t realize it, becuase change happens incrementally and it’s human nature not to see the many thousands of tiny increments that happen around us each day.
Old media is really ‘old’ and many companies are just going to fall off a cliff … they refuse to see hwat’s happening and they will go along pretty much status quo until one morning they feel air under their feet and that “sinking” feeling in the pit of their stomach.
As far as paid content becoming a widespread model? I don’t know. I know that some big guys like the Washington Post tried hard for that and then went all free years ago. The current methods of charging for content leave a lot to be desired … people have been talking about things like “micro-payment” systems for years, a few have even been launched, but they did not succeed.
One that does succeed may pop up tomnorrow, though. The ‘Net is more full of opportunity and promise today than it ever was in the past.
To those reading here and wondering if they should “make a change”? The cards are already dealt. If there ever was a time, it is now. I was talking to a friend earlier about poker so I guess i am stuck with poker analogies in my mind the rest of the day.
You may not have asked to get in the game, but circumstances have put you at the table. The cards have been dealt, they are laying in front of you. You can pick them up and play the hand, or you can leave them on the table … but if a player doesn’t act when it is his turn, under the rules of poker … and life … the player’s hand is declared dead and he loses anyway.
What’s your bet? My only regret about moving online is that I waited so long to push in any chips 😉
Hi Dave – In many ways, when these “old” style publishers move to the new media, we are on a level playing field with them. In some respects, we are actually one step ahead of them, as they will be newbies to the net, we have been established here for some time already. I think that we are living in interesting, and exciting times in this realm.
I do tend to agree with you.I feel we are living through another kind of industrial revolution, or as Alvin Toffler described some years ago “The 3rd wave” regards Chas.
Hi Chas – I agree with that, we are in the midst of it right now, and if we look closely, we can see the changes happening.
Yup. What Bob said. For many of these sites, there will have to be a way to make money. Facebook comes to mind. While it does monetize its site, it is in no way making a profit. Eventually, it must do so. Newspapers and other information sources will have to work out a way to get money from readers in both direct and indirect ways.
Hi Tom N – I believe that this puts people like you and I in a great position, because it puts all content providers into the game together. We are on the same playing field as the big boys!
I think you are so right. We can run cheap. They really truly don’t know how. Profit margin is going to be key.
Hi Tom N – You and I are thinking in the exact same terms! 😀