Survey: digital products have revenue potential

February 4, 2014

By Stanley Schwartz
Managing Editor | Publishers’ Auxiliary

Digital newspaper vendors believe there is revenue potential on those electronic pages.

A survey done by the National Newspaper Association, asked companies that offer digitization of newspapers how they see community publications progressing on the electronic frontier.

More than half of the respondents, 58.3 percent, said they thought the best reason for newspapers to offer a digital version of their print products was to develop new revenue potential. And half believe it demonstrates a newspaper’s progress toward a digital future.

One said, “It is a way to provide a print-like curated product that readers like with the immediacy and low publishing costs of the Web.”

Another added that; “Publishers should also realize that even with a static PDF they can enhance their editions with interactive content, not just to enhance engagement but to also serve as additional revenue spots.”

For those publications still debating taking that step, there may be some good news. More than half of the vendors, 66.7 percent, believe the cost for digitizing newspapers has come down.

Because of the revenue potential, none of the vendors thought newspapers should make their digital versions free to the public. Some, 36.4 percent, thought it should be available with the paid print subscription. But only about 9 percent thought the digital version should be made available without the print product—at a lower price than the printed paper.

“Most of our publishers offer the electronic issue free with a print subscription,” said one of the vendors. “The next most popular is offering it at the Local rate for an electronic-only issue. This is the best option as they can then get rid of the postal and printing cost for that subscription.”

Plus, once the paper is in a digital format, it can be delivered to a reader’s mobile device, so the publication can be accessed from anywhere the reader can use his or her phone.

One vendor said, “Digital publishing means a lot more than it did a few years ago. It encompasses not just websites but mobile sites, social media outlets, apps, tablet publications, sms and newsletters to name a few primary channels. But we believe it also means being able to republish and repackage content as well to take advantage of the strengths the different channels offer.”

The majority of vendors who answered the survey, 83.3 percent, said communities with smaller staffs would be better off with a turnkey program that does not require much training.

One of the companies said, “Something that does not require much training should be a priority as well as a system that pretty much anyone in the office can use. It should be affordable so that the smaller, community papers are able to utilize the system.”

“Ideally the publisher should be looking for an ROI within 12 months, if not sooner,” another vendor said. “One of the most important factors for a publisher to consider is also minimal disruption to an existing workflow, if their provider can tap in to this then it means low ongoing costs for a publisher internally.”

The majority of vendors, 75 percent, said they believe social media should provide an additional avenue for promotion of the newspaper. More than 66 percent said they also think social media can provide an avenue for distribution.

One vendor said social media can, “Help shape the story—turn the conversation into a two-sided conversation, not just one sided, by engaging feedback from the readers.”

The uses for digital versions of newspapers are numerous. Much like when newspapers first began making their presence known on the Internet through their own websites, digital versions can be a way to gain more readers or keep those readers who travel and still want to stay in touch with their home towns.

One vendor noted that “Publishers should also seek systems that embrace their different channels and help them plan to craft content that makes the most of each channel. So the same exact story does not have to just be repurposed from print to Web to mobile. Papers should look to systems that help them take advantage of the unlimited space electronic publications offer to run more photos, a longer version of a story, video and so forth.”

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