Tuesday, 08 September 2009

Pay for news?

I was shocked when buying Mail & Guardian's print edition this past Friday and found that it was no longer R16.50 (if my memory serves me well) it used to be, but instead, cost R19.00, or was it R19.50? This was after paying with a R20.00 and received the change I did not expect.

Did Mail & Guardian increase its print edition price in order to save the newspaper as suggested by Walter Isaacson of the TIME magazine?

In his suggestion, Isaacson said:

a) Journalism had reached its meltdown proportions,
b) Major cities would no longer have newspapers and magazines and network-news will not employ more than a handful of reporters,
c) Newspapers had more readers than ever, and their contents and those of magazines and other producers of journalism were more popular, especially among youth [talk about me],
d) Few of these consumers were paying [for news – whether print or online] and news organizations were giving away their news [for free],
e) A research by Pew Research Centre found that people in the US got news online for free [in South Africa, many do get news for free except from on publications from Independent Online media house] – and he quit subscribing to New York Times newspaper for “if it doesn’t fit to charge for its content, I’d feel like a fool for paying for it
f) This business model [ for charging for news] did not make sense.

Newspapers and magazines traditionally have had three revenue sources: newsstand sales, subscriptions and advertising. The new business model relies only on the last of these,” wrote Isaacson.

In South Africa, newspapers (Sunday Times, City Press and Mail & Guardian) and magazines (the two, Finweek and Financial Mail, being weekly SA financial magazines I buy often, if not every week) have over the years increased their retail prices and this has left many of those who cannot afford them having to borrow from their friends and family members while others continued to enjoy the publication(s).

Surprisingly, especially the weekly newspapers and magazines, one has continued to see big advertisements – others not making any sense to a reasonable consumer – and has raised the question among consumers, myself to be precise, if these publications are doing these full-page adverts because of lack of news/stories or features to report or they are just struggling to attract advertisers.

Further, Isaacson indicated that if advertising as a new business model to generate income for newspapers and magazines is as strong as ever – it would make a wobbly stool even when the one leg is strong – but “when it weakens — as countless publishers have seen happen as a result of the recession — the stool can't possibly stand”.

As a result, could it be that advertising - newspaper and magazine publications who have increased their retail prices - has weakened and therefore these publications, ‘can’t possibly stand’ as Isaacson has suggested?

And just how far should one go in paying for online news?

And as for the price of Mail & Guardian, I think it is took much, as nothing of the extraodinary can be seen on the publications, except on its great investigations although at time, it gets into trouble with other 'not-to-be-trouble-with' members of our society and the law (rarel) - and I must say, with a good reputations as far as the publications itself is concerned!

Or was I a fool, as Isaacson suggested, for being 'charged for its content'?


Brave Heart said...

The mass media tries to make as much from as many income streams as they can - unfortunately it is consumers who have to bear the brunt of these escalating costs.
So much for encouraging the culture of reading.

AQUILOGY said...

Just like the recording industry, The print media is panicking over the fact that we live in a digital age, they just can't make as much money as they used to. The recording industry shot itself in the foot by trying to "punish" pirates. The print media gave stuff for free and couldn't make as much money from on-line advertising but know they're trying to to make us pay for news on-line? are we heading to a point were we'll be pirating news article as well?

Akanyang Merementsi said...

Is it really "So much for encouraging the culture of reading" or that and making millions out of it?

Akanyang Merementsi said...

@ Auilogy

Quite right and they are trying to rip us off!

Maybe, if we go the route of having to go the piracy-way - then they are in for a nasty surprise.

This is because they started all this!

However, I think Mail & Guardian is doing a great job (for now I think) but we may see some changes in the future whereby we will be forced, the likes of Pretoria News, FinWeek, Havard Business Review, etc, to pay for online news, if not expected to be a subscribers.

What then, as consumers, must we do?

Should we stick to our blogging, because it's fun, and not for the love of money (or is lack thereof?) as others use it, but because you do not get charged or restricted - by expected to pay - from sharing your views with the world at large.

I would think we may have to stick to Blogging for a long time, until these Network junkies take it away from us, or too, have us pay for hosting our blogn pages!