So you’re a daily newspaper guy and you think people have always paid for news. Fair enough. Some of your readers probably do pay for news.
But if you want to charge for your news online you’re going to need to know roughly how many people are willing to pay for it so you can figure out a business model.
And you’re going to want to know how many people will pay for news on its own since they can get all the other bits you publish – the weather and crosswords etc – really easily and affordably elsewhere.
Here’s a simple way to figure out how many people are willing to pay for your news.
1. Count how many people currently subscribe to your newspaper. Add to that the number of people who buy it from a retail outlet. Write down the number. That’s how many people are paying for your newspaper.
2. For the next three months:
- Don’t publish any crosswords or sudoku
- Drop the puzzles page and comics
- Ditch the weather
- Leave out the sports results
- Don’t run the lottery numbers
- Can the Features section
- Kill the movie reviews and listings
- Nix the TV guide
- Axe the stock market and currency tables
- Run the classifieds and retail display ads in a separate, giveaway section
3. In three months time count how many people are still subscribing to your newspaper. Add to that the number of people who are still buying it from a retail outlet. Write down the number. That’s how many people are paying for your news.
Over to you whether you try this as a thought exercise first or put it straight into practice. (Warning: this exercise causes extreme anxiety in circulation managers. Keep defibrillator handy.)
“I was on jury duty one day and was told the bailiff wanted to see me… He said, ‘I just called to complain because ‘Hägar the Horrible’ wasn’t in the paper. I’ll get you out of jury duty if you put it back.’”
– Tulsa World managing editor Susan Ellerbach, in an article about syndicated content companies.