What's black and white and read all over? The answer: Your new bill from the newspaper company!
For years, the newspaper industry has struggled as its subscribers have left in numbers, opting to read their news for free online. With declining subscriptions, newspapers have had little negotiating power when it comes to getting top dollar for their ad space. In addition, fewer readers meant advertisers were less willing to place their ads in newspapers when online readership was increasing.
Well, the newspaper industry may finally be wising up. The New York Times
The system isn't perfect, either, with numerous loopholes existing through backdoor links on Facebook and Twitter, which easily allow users to bypass the New York Times' pay wall once a reader's monthly limit is reached, but it's a good start for a company whose revenue has been in a downward spiral for years.
This move follows Gannett's
According to a study conducted by the University of Missouri of more than 300 newspapers, it's actually the smaller newspapers that have taken to charging customers for online content much quicker than the larger daily papers have. Based on phone interviews, 46% of all papers with less than 25,000 circulation were charging for online content while only 24% of all papers over 25,000 circulation were charging. Ironically, though, it's the larger newspapers that are quicker to adapt mobile applications for smartphones and tablets than smaller circulations, and I suspect that has more to do with their budgetary differences than their intent.
Still, not every newspaper company has chosen to charge for its online content. Washington Post
It may have taken years of resistance and a basket of stubborn CEOs to realize it, but content's trend is away from print and toward digital. Although it could be years before a real ramp-up in subscriptions is seen -- remember, we are still in the infancy of paying for online content -- the long-term growth generating by these online subscriptions should give much of the newspaper sector a second wind.
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Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He last paid for a newspaper in 1999. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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