Friday, July 23, 2010

Digital Revenue at New York Times May Finally Signal a Real Paradigm Shift

Now We're Talking the Kind of Numbers That Really Matter

From yesterday's New York Times story about its parent company's 2Q earnings report, this paragraph screamed out for attention, as well it should.

"Digital advertising revenue grew 21 percent, while the decline of print revenue slowed to 6 percent, leaving the company’s overall advertising revenue essentially flat. As a result, online advertising became a larger share of the company’s overall advertising revenue, climbing to 26 percent of the company’s total advertising take."

That number is quite the revelation, given the conventional wisdom that online ads typically accounted for only 10 percent of revenue. That may still be the case elsewhere, but the Times has shown it's possible to move off that number in a meaningful way.

Of course, that's significant when circulation for the print editions continue their swoon, even if the actual total number of readers when you figure in digital is actually quite robust. Hopefully, that can translate into publishers not getting the itchy finger to slash away at budgets for the core product, thereby leaving little to read for the online edition. Too many newspapers have tragically forgot that part of the equation, which is all the more annoying when they want to impose some kind of pay wall. First, they cut staff and content, while raising newsstand prices. Then they want to charge for access to a website with a desiccated product.

That the glue to fix the broken newspaper business model may finally be found in cyberspace is a big deal. The Times has shown that a good website--in other words, a distinct product that's more than just a slick repackaging of the newspaper--is not only a good idea, but it makes good business sense. Finally.

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