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Friday, October 29, 2010

Printing Newspapers, Digital Text Books

Over at the corporate press there is an article about whether newspapers, and the NY Times, will continue to be printed.  The corporate press discussion is a bit shallow, but they go on to say they may be good news in print for textbooks.

Let's analyze all this a bit more...

I took a little deeper look at the NY Times situation.  First off, they are planning to implement a "pay wall" at the NY Times next year.  This means that you will be able to access some articles per month for free and after that you will have to pay.  This is, however, for the casual user.  If you'd like a web-based subscription that is offered as well.

This is common.  The Wall Street Journal, for example, does basically the same type of thing.

I guess its a good thing that the NY Times realizes they need to be paid.  According to Aurthur Sulzberger, Jr., the chairman and publisher:  "Our pursuit of the pay model is a step in the right direction for us," Sulzberger said. "We believe that serious media organizations must start to collect additional revenue from their readers," and "information is less and less yearning to be free." Readers are becoming increasingly willing to buy information on the web if it enhances their lives, he said.

I find the underlined portion of the statement very interesting, particularly in light of this article.

Here we find the crux of the matter: "The economics of the online news business will not support the infrastructure or newsroom that the printed paper supports."

This is very interesting.  Web-based news reporting cannot support itself.  But it goes on: "We estimate that the NYT currently spends about $200 million a year on its newsroom and generates about $150 million of online revenue."

This coupled with continuous losses on the print side (maybe $12 million a year) are what's driving all of this.  Right now I can access the NYT without restriction - or at least so it seems.

So let's compare this to a less venerable, perhaps down-right evil publication, the Wall Street Journal.  Over at I found some comments from Rupert Murdoch, the new owner.  Though a bit dated (from 2008) they tell us a lot:

"Rupert Murdoch, the new owner of D conference, and Dow Jones (NYSE: NWS), is speaking in the last keynote of the day today, at his conference. When asked by Walt about the future of newspapers: “I just love communicating with people, whether print, TV, print, mobile and others. Print will be there for at least 20 years, and outlive me.”

On keeping WSJ/Barrons as subscription: “When I saw how much money they were making, I changed my mind on it. People can pay a lot more than we are charging, from $50 a year to $150 million…We have 2000 great journalists….if we can’t fashion something great out of it, then we have something wrong,” he said, elaborating on the premium product that WSJ can build on

These guys seem to have no problems making money, even with 2,000 journalists.  The NYT, at around the same time, has only about 1,330 journalists working in its news room.

So is print dying or is the NYT just an example of a grossly mismanaged media company?

The real question, I think, is has print tied itself to an unpopular editorial model - one that's losing ground against a more popular one - as well as, in a case like the NY Times, a bad business model.

I think that's the real question.

Let's think about books for a minute - in particular school books.  I've been looking at this article at for the last couple of days.  This talks about a all-digital text book video-game like text book that the E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, named after the naturalist and founder, plans to give away.  Now whether or not you agree with E. O. Wilson is another matter but the idea that they can raise $10 million dollars and create a free digital science book is interesting.

My grandchildren are not so interested in sitting down to read physical books - and I don't see how they are different than most these days.  At 7 and 9 they are taught at a cyberschool.  This is a complete on-line school.  No paper, no books.  They've been in this school all along and I don't see how they would go back to paper books.

I imagine that this E. O. Wilson book will be aimed at this model of education.

The growth of cyber schools is amazing (from a 2005 article).  The recent anecdotal evidence I have from my daughter whose children are in there particular school is that the school is growing rapidly.

Students in colleges already all have laptops - cyber grade schools are all computerized - so its really hard for me to see how print will make an inroad.

The Digital Nirvana comments I think are out of touch on both accounts...

1 comment:

  1. They still have works sheets, but you can do them on the computer with a program as simple as paint and turn them via email.