Saturday, August 23, 2008

Should newspapers look overseas for answers?

Forwarded to me today was an article in the Austin-American Statesman suggesting that U.S. newspapers might find their business model overseas, where the promotion is raucous and the trend has not been to cut, cut, cut and then expect people to pay more.

As I noted in my response to the kind e-mail: Europe and Asia have always been ahead on this, partly because of the more homogeneous cultures in some places and partly because of the greater penetration of broadband and similar technology. (Same in the mobile space.) I think Garcia's comment about focus groups is right on. (Mario Garcia says too many innovations are stopped by focus groups that go negative on them largely because they have not seen them before, not necessarily because they won't work.)

Of course, I note that the minute I opened the Statesman article, the top portion was covered by a popout from the neighboring home sales ad. Need I say more? ...

Another thing of note is that U.S. papers, from my experience through Newsplex, are far less active in Ifra, the international press organization that has been far ahead of U.S. newspaper organizations in all this. (Sorry NNA and NAA, but it's true.)

Ifra doesn't help itself by having confiscatory subscription rates and no reasonably priced online access or individual memberships to receive its magazine (now IFRA magazine, formerly newstechniques) that has continued to be far ahead of U.S. industry publications like Editor & Publisher on things like convergence. If your paper is a member, you should demand that it give you access to the magazine's site. If it isn't, you should ask why not. (Randy Covington of Newsplex notes that all NAA members should have access to Ifra publications.)

Update: Kerry Northrup, who I am proud to have worked with, questions my use of "confiscatory" subscription rates and clarifies that complimentary subscriptions are available to academics, etc. That's great. But let's examine for a moment how I came to the conclusion that subscriptions were "confiscatory." OK, I'll admit I intentionally put a bit of juice in that word -- but when you click on the IFRA site, this is what you see if you click on information to get a subscription. The first is the overall price notice. The second is what you get when you actually click one of the radio buttons to choose a subscription type. Neither mentions a free subsciption for academics or "pretty much anyone else who demonstrates involvement with the news publishing industry," to quote Kerry.

Checking my handy-dandy currency converter, 79 Euros for the e-edition works out to about $116 a year, or almost $10 a month, which is steep on an academic's or student's or small-newspaper journalist's salary -- and those are exactly the people who need to be reading this (not all are NAA members, and many may not know about such an offer anyway, so my original comment stands in spirit, if not de facto now that Kerry has clarified).

It's wonderful that Kerry has clarified this. Maybe Ifra could make its Web site clearer, too.

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At 8/24/08, 2:24 PM, Blogger Luke Morris said...

When I was in Turkey I realized that everyone was grabbing more than one newspaper to read. A lot of that was because of each paper's pretty obvious bias (pro-Islam or pro-secularism/Kemalism usually). You had to grab another just to properly inform yourself.

But that would never work in America.

Luke Morris

At 8/24/08, 7:19 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...


Just curious why it wouldn't work. It kinda worked here for the first 100+ years or so, with highly partisan papers.

Having said that, of course I would prefer not going back to those days to that degree, but it seems that in the world where news outlets are vibrant you'll find a place where the news organizations have pretty well-demarcated points of view.

I wonder if there is some middle ground.

At 8/24/08, 9:49 PM, Anonymous Newsplexer said...

Hi, Doug --

Not exactly sure what "confiscatory subscription rates" means.

However, to clarify, IFRA Magazine is widely and freely available.

Every employee of every IFRA- or NAA-member newspaper in the United States, which is most of them, qualifies for a free personal subscription through our ePaper distribution. We also offer courtesy ePaper subscriptions to pretty much anyone else who demonstrates involvement with the news publishing industry, including academics. All anyone has to do is fill out the online subscription form at

Access to the magazine's portal and to its extensive set of resource microsites is free to anyone. See

IFRA Magazine is the only international trade journal for the news publishing industry and is currently read by 25,000 professionals in 70 countries every month in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic editions. If there are any questions, just drop us a note referencing this blog entry at subscriptions(at)

Kerry J. Northrup

At 8/24/08, 11:25 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...


Excellent. But I've updated my post to show why your Web site might easily lead someone to think he or she might have to pay 79 euros. Nowhere that I see does it indicate that such generous terms might exist (excpet for the NAA member info).



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