I received yet another email from the Sydney Morning Herald letting me know that they had now moved from a traditional news print way of selling the news (the news had always been paid by advertisers with the cost of the physical papers being a re-imbursement of the distribution cost) to digital subscriptions. Did I want one?
The Herald was pushing a package where for AU $15 a month I could read the Herald by accessing it through the website. That is $180 per year. OK, that may not seem so bad except that in real terms, the paper version did not cost me anything and came from a newspaper that had many more reporters and journalists than it now does (the Herald dumped so many journalists and reporters into the job market last year to cut costs). So now, in real terms, I am expected to pay more for less!
It gets more interesting however.
For only an extra AU $10 a month (and therefore the princely sum of AU $300 per year) I can get the same Herald but with access from my tablet (iPad in my case, Android tablet in the case of others). So now the Herald expects me to pay AU $120 a year for an iPad app!
Now they are definitely dreaming!
The biggest problem with Fairfax (the owners of the Herald) and indeed News Corporation (Rupert Murdoch’s non-government surveillance organisation) is that they do not really understand the digital world. They have not got the necessary digital vision to see what is going to work for the digital future. For example, in the past, newspapers charged advertisers based on their audited circulations. They argued that this was an indication of the number of people reading the ads, which of course it was not. In a digital world, advertisers can see when the advertisement has piqued the interest of a reader by the reader clicking through so they will no longer pay for a blanket “oh, your ad will be seen by 500,000 people because that is our audited circulation”.
What is the secret to digital newspapers? Simply speaking, either charge $300 per year (and lose I would guess around 90% of your readership and therefore relevance) or adopt a better model – but really, $120 per year for an iPad app – is that the most expensive iPad app ever?