| ASNE's annual convention is the largest annual gathering of newsroom leaders from daily newspapers and other news organizations. At ASNE 2012, editors and leaders in the field of journalism education will gather for programs focused on "What It Takes" to lead the digital and mobile transformation of a modern newsroom.
iPads, tablets, bundled subscriptions
By Dave Nyczepir
A panel of publishers shared their digital subscription plan success stories at this session Tuesday afternoon.
Moderator Rem Rieder, editor of American Journalism Review, noted the dynamic shift in publications charging for access in recent years.
"For many years, if you were charging for content on the Internet, it was probably in the pornography business," he said.
James M. Moroney III, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News, contended that smaller publications like his have a differentiated and relevant product to sell - local news and information.
But the decrease in print revenue jeopardizes the size of newsrooms, which is critical to in-depth local reporting and warrants the switch to a paid model, he said.
"I hope that some of you will take this to heart," Moroney said. "I think that if we lose the scale of our newsrooms, not only is our democracy going to be in peril, but I also believe that it's the quickest way you're going to lose your profitability and your business."
The New York Times toyed with the idea of digital subscriptions for a while but ramped up its research into the area when the recession hit, said Paul Smurl, vice president for paid products at NYTimes.com.
"We kept getting this fairly consistent percentage of readers who said they were willing to pay something, and it surprised us," he said. "But that gave us the courage to go forward and say, 'You know, we've got an asset here.' "
The Times employed a metered approach, requiring serious readers to purchase a digital subscription after 10 monthly page views.
Walter E. Hussman Jr., CEO of WEHCO Media Inc., and publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, explained how his paper pioneered digital subscriptions in 2001 and found price elasticity as the cost increased.
Such increases could one day enable the Gazette to fund investigative reporting, he said.
The panel predicted that tablets would be a game-changer, with Smurl saying one-in-five people would own a tablet this year.
The three dismissed the notion that most readers would object to pay walls as undemocratic, saying that the sentiment was generational and that older readers are accustomed to paying for content.
"In 1980, no one could read The Dallas Morning News unless they bought it or they had someone give them their copy," Moroney said. "So what's undemocratic about what we're doing today?"
Dave Nyczepir is a student at the University of Maryland. She is one of several local university journalism students reporting live from ASNE 2012.
Apr 03 2012, 04:56 PM
About Amanda Knowles
Amanda Knowles is Web & Social Media Manager at the Newspaper Association of America. Before coming to NAA, Amanda spent four years working in print journalism, both at the college and professional level. She has worked as a copy editor and news page designer for two daily newspapers in northwestern Pennsylvania, The Erie Times-News and The Meadville Tribune. Most recently, she collaborated on The American Observer, the online magazine edited and produced by graduate journalism students at American University in Washington, D.C. Amanda believes strongly in the secure future of the newspaper, and is excited to be a participant in the movement to integrate traditional print media into the burgeoning digital world.