Newspapers could survive advertising declines by turning to e-books

peopleshistoryHow are newspapers going to survive the e-revolution? Dan Pacheco of BookBrewer thinks he has the answer: e-books. He points to the recent Huffington Post decision to start organizing and curating years of journalism work on particular subjects and releasing it in the form of e-books.

E-book revenues, he suggests, could supplement flagging on-line ad revenues by targeting people who would like to read on given subjects in depth with materials that probably already exist in many newspaper archives. Why settle for a paywall when you can aim specific stories at target audiences who might never bother trolling your archives?

Newspapers and news organizations are swimming in content that’s perfect for e-books. A few examples include multi-part series, collections of celebrity interviews, popular columns, restaurant reviews and — irony of ironies — collections of book reviews.

He suggests that reporters could open their notebooks and write original longer-form content that they never bothered to write because it couldn’t have been published in the papers in their existing forms.

There’s certainly something to be said for this approach. Though Pacheco didn’t mention it, Ars Technica took in a considerable amount of revenue just by publishing one of its writers’ review of the new OS X as an e-book—and didn’t even have to give the reporter a cut of the revenue.

In fact, it seems to be only common sense to try to break out your assets and target sales individually to people who might be interested in them but not other things you have to offer. It’s really only surprising nobody has thought of it until now.

6 Comments on Newspapers could survive advertising declines by turning to e-books

  1. Richard Askenase // September 14, 2011 at 9:48 am //

    I must say that I really like this idea. Most newspapers/magazines, have huge libraries, mostly now digitized from the past 10 years or so, that could easily be turned into quick, INEXENSIVE ebooks.

  2. Aggregators of newspaper content – such as Factiva – have enormous scope to do the same providing their license agreements allow it.

  3. Our local newspaper is just a “brand” in the Gannett media empire. It’s hard to even call it a newspaper when some days it’s only 20 pages long (a typical Monday edition), and that’s 90% AP content. What’s to save?

  4. Thinking about all the other newspapers that have already done this, including tiny The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in Fargo North Dakota, Huffington seems to be getting outsized recognition. That said, anything to highlight long-form writing is a good trend especially when it would be otherwise forgotten. Doug is right, it isn’t for every paper but some have deep archives on narrow topics–perfect for the web.

  5. The big question is how have they organized their files and if they can even find them (or ever kept them). I suspect they are facing an overwhelming and expensive task to resurrect that content. Possible? Yes, but they have to act quickly while they have any amount of cash flow remaining.

  6. It seems to me that the greater part of any newspaper’s historical content is exactly that – history. The size of the target audience will be very small and specialised.

    It is a great idea and should be explored.

    However it is only a short term model. The arrival of a widespread Micropayment system where readers can read individual articles across many many content providers for low costs (~2c – 10c), based on a topup balance – is the ultimate monetising of content in my view.

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