Economy does in the Las Vegas Sun

From a JOA where your paper is inserted in the “winning” newspaper’s edition to a multi-award winning newspaper website and a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service back to laying off most of your staff. The Las Vegas CityLife has interesting look at the roller coaster ride of Greenspun Media’s Las Vegas Sun. They examine how the newspaper reinvented the print newsroom to focus on long-form journalism, the free reign they gave new media wonder boy Rob Curley, the tension between the interactive newsroom and the print newsroom and how the collapse of the Las Vegas real estate market cause the newspaper to lose most of interactive staff and half of it’s newsroom.

Will broadband and media innovation sustain democracy?

The free flow of information “is as vital to the healthy functioning of communities as clean air, safe streets, good schools and public health.” That’s what the Knight Commission on Information Needs of a Democracy concluded in their report on Sustaining Democracy in a Digital Age.  The 145 page report urges the nation to making sure all Americans have broadband access just as the emphasized ground transportation in building an interstate highway system a half-century ago.

The commission also examined issued the media is facing recommending:

  • Direct media policy toward innovation, competition, and support for business models that provide marketplace incentives for quality journalism.
  • Increase the role of higher education,community and nonprofit institutions as hubs of journalistic activity and other information-sharing for local communities.

When is paid content successful?

What metrics do you use to measure the success of a newspaper web site switching to a paid content model? Specifically, I’m thinking about how will Stephens Media know if their switch to a paid content model for the Pine Bluff Commercial? Here’s the metrics I think a site switching to a paid content model would have to use.

  • Paid Subscribers both online and in print – To justify paid content model you must show an increase in print newspaper subscriptions because the reason you switched to a paid model was to stop the cannibalization of your print subscribers by your free online site. Of course most studies show that the revenue generated from paid online subscribers will barely cover the cost of running the website.
  • Web Site Visitors – Nope. You can keep measuring your web site visitors if you want to, but the dropoff from when it was free will be so discouraging you might change your mind and open it up again.
  • Web Display Ad Revenue – Strike Two. Won’t work. You just killed your audience with the paid wall. Any advertiser who runs on your site behind the pay wall doesn’t know what they’re doing.
  • Online Classified Revenue – Strike Three. This isn’t working for many newspapers anymore, but if you’ve killed your audience then who will pay to get their classifieds seen online by nobody.

So, the only real workable metric is an increase in paid print subscribers. That’s right a continual increase. If you only slow your decrease, then you’ve just slowed the print newspaper death spiral and given yourself another year or two until the presses stop running.