Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Washington Post quandary

In the last Sunday edition of the Washington Post ( January 27), the ombudsman stated the newspaper and newspapers quandary in just a few words. First, the cost of the daily. When I was staying in DC in the late 90's I marvelled at its low price, 25 cents for more than 100 pages of news and ads every day. Since 2001 the price of the Post has increased fivefold. Since last week it is 1.25 dollar. The reason is obvious. Advertising that contributed 80% of the revenue has gone down to 45%. Now the Post is not in any better position than the French newspapers which are so expensive and get hardly 40% of their income from the ads.

Internet is of course the main factor of this downward trend. Craigslist in the US or Leboncoin in France attract most of the ads that were the main source of profit of the dailies ten years ago. So it would be logical to ask Internet to help now the press to survive. However the ombudsman stresses that it is not very profitable due to intense competition between thousands of websites that each attract their piece of advertising.  The only way to move forward is to make people pay. The NY Times seems to be quite successful. Now, the Post must give up its free offer and start a paywall with no guarantee of success. No doubt it is a cultural revolution but is there another solution? The ombudsman doubts it.