When I was in elementary school, my friend Rebecca LaFlure and I started a neighborhood newspaper. We called it Kids News, and, regrettably, I think some issues had a "z" in the title.
We charged a nickel and peddled the paper door-to-door. It was pretty stinking adorable. Thing was, copies cost a quarter. So while our cute factor was through the roof, our profit margins weren’t.
In a fun twist of fate, LaFlure and I are both still working in journalism. Something about those French bylines just sticks, I suppose.
Murdoch seemingly approached the digital era of news with the same level of excess that print publications once enjoyed.
Although the media landscape today is vastly different than the one we entered in the ’90s, the mistakes are the same. The Daily, Rupert Murdoch’s iPad-only brainchild, is shuttering December 15 after less than two years.
In that time, The Daily sold 100,000 subscriptions, which cost 99 cents or $40 a year. In addition to spending $30 million on God-knows-what to jumpstart the publication, Murdoch reportedly shelled out $500,000 a week in operating costs.
And I thought a 20-cent loss per issue was poor management.
Murdoch seemingly approached the digital era of news with the same level of excess that print publications once enjoyed. Sure, at one time newspapers were so flush with advertising that continually adding departments and bureaus was sustainable. That success story is turning into a tragedy before our eyes.
Successful digital publications take advantage of a low output cost; they don’t take savings on paper, ink and distribution and blow it all on something new. Whatever other revenue streams Murdoch had up his sleeve besides subscriptions weren't enough to justify his huge business expenditures.
Granted, the digital model is not without its challenges. But speaking from experience, it’s amazing what a team of talented people can produce with little more than an Internet connection, cellphones and subpar coffee.
The Daily failed in part because it targeted a limited section of society (iPad owners) with broad news coverage.
The solution to the digital publication problem isn’t as simple as charging more for subscriptions. As you might have guessed, I’m in the lower-the-barrier-to-entry camp when it comes to news sources.
Charging more may bring in a smaller, more lucrative audience, but it fundamentally changes the purpose of a news company. And not for the better.
Media is for the masses, not just the elite. The Daily failed in part because it targeted a limited section of society (iPad owners) with broad news coverage.
For better or for worse, people consistently read articles that confirm their beliefs or relate to their little corner of the world.
You won’t find me voraciously pouring over websites about British politics. A passing interest is all I can muster for coverage on the latest cars coming out. And yet publications for those segments of society — online and otherwise —flourish.
Not because they have something for everyone, but because they cover one place or topic really well. There’s something to be said for broad appeal, but an entire publication can’t be based on it.
The Daily wrote about anything that had happened on any given day and continent. Rather than writing for one audience, The Daily tried to write for all of them. Go figure it worked for no one.