Tuesday, February 16, 2010

There are right ways and wrong ways

Problem #1 about the Internet, as far as newspapers are concerned, is that nobody but nobody pays the same amount of money for something on the Internet that they do in print. That readers don't pay the same price is basically irrelevant -- readers have never, ever paid anything close to the full cost of production for the daily paper. What is far more damaging for papers, what is the real core fault with the Internet as far as they're concerned, is that advertisers won't pay the same amount of money for online ads that they do in print -- or, as newspapermen still call it, "the real world".

I don't deny this is a real problem -- hey, we're all mercenaries in our own way -- and reporters want to be paid as much as anyone. But there are right ways and wrong ways to go about these things. And insisting on charging users as much for your new fancy iPad-enabled paper as you do for the print version when you know that advertisers still won't pony up similarly is a way of calling your readers stupider than the advertisers they're supposed to be shepherded towards.

Stupid, as in "sure you could just read this thing through your iPad's web browser, but you've apparently got more money than brains so we expect you to do this instead". Or, stupid as in "sure the advertisers who are our real customers don't give a shit about online readership numbers. But we expect you to cough up some dough to pretend that they do."

Or maybe just "hey, you're not buying the iPad because of what it does, you're buying it because you want to be seen using it while you drink your decaf soy latte at the local Starbucks. So ante up douchebag, and read the Sunday times like your peers expect you to." [1]

Okay, so maybe that's a little smart after all.

[1] Having been a guy who served lattes from behind the espresso bar, I don't really have anything against latte-drinkers. Hell, I drink lattes! But lets be clear about the social positioning and signalling going on here.

No comments: