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.

Timeline tools

I spent all morning banging my head against my computer and several search engines trying to remember the name of visual timeline tool that I found that was pretty cool– Vuvox. Vuvox is a web tool that alllows to create a collage of photos, video, audio and text to tell a story.  Here’s a good example of one (be sure to hit the full screen button to get the full experience).

Some other timeline tools I found while I was trying to remember Vuvox include

Video on final edition of RMN

Scripps closed the Rocky Mountain News today– it was a great newspaper, a great website, a model of how a news operation can change. Unfortunately, the JOA in Denver didn’t give Scripps enough flexibility to stop the losses it had seen this past year ($16 million).

Here’s a long video on the end of the RMN (21 minutes, but it’s worth it.).  If you can watch it in full screen in HD.

Facebook made me do it and other lies told

This must be the day of lists. Newsweek has a great list of the Seven Lies We Tell Ourselves About Facebook. I’ve listed the Newsweek “lie” and my response to it.

  1. I only friend people I really know– I actually only friend people who I am willing to go out to dinner with so my standard is actually higher than this. There are several people who I’ve not friended because I don’t want to eat dinner with.
  2. Facebook made me do it– I refuse to do something on facebook just because everyone else has done it. I won’t play the name game or 25 random things (that’s probably more because I’m lazy than anything).
  3. Wall to wall flirting isn’t cheating – It’s horrible the way some people flirt and friend so outlandishly on facebook where they would be embarassed to be caught flirting in the same manner in real life.
  4. I use facebook to keep in touch with people – I have to agree with Newsweek– I use facebook because I’m nosy (yes, I said it, now you can admit to it, too).
  5. I’m so over facebook– I really am moving in that direction. More now than last week and more next week than now. When your grandma chats with you on facebook and asks you to post a link and then your 6 month old nephew friends you, it’s time to find another place to hang out.
  6. I’m not so competitive– I hate most games- board games or computer games so I don’t care if you beat me. I don’t really know why I hate games. Just playing them really tires me.
  7. Facebook is my friend– Ok. I know facebook isn’t my friend (just look how they flip flopped on their terms of service this week), but I can’t say it’s a business either or at least a successful one. On the other hand, I sure wish that I had come up with the idea and launched facebook or at least something similar where I could sue facebook for stealing my idea.

Web Design Truths

Here’s a great article from Smashing Magazine on 10 Harsh Truths About Corporate Web Design.  I’ve worked online in some form or fashion for about 10 years and this article really gets to the heart of a lot that I’ve experienced.  My favorite truths are

  • You need a separate web division
  • Periodic redesign is not enough
  • Your website cannot appeal to everyone
  • Design by committee brings death

I think I like these so much because I can related to them– I have lived them.