Why are newspapers so dumb about selling reprints?
I have long urged journalists to start getting into a retail mentality. It's not a wholesale biz anymore.*
And one of the things you know, if you've worked in retail, is the power of the impulse purchase and the value of it because people tend to spend more for something they've decided they just have to have. So why, then, do so many newspapers make it tough to instantly buy reprints on their sites, especially photos?
When it comes to stories, some get it right, like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, which have reprint permission links next to most stories. But many others, including such biggies as the L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune, are AWOL on this.
And when it comes to photos - the ultimate impulse purchase - too many newspapers make it too hard, if they have a "buy this" button at all.
Even when they get it "right," too many media companies still get it wrong. For instance, say you saw a nice story in the Times or Journal about cousin Bobby and wanted a plaque of it. Click on the reprint link next to the story and you get this screen that suggests you need a logon and a lawyer.
OK, take a chance and hit that "make a selection" drop down box. There's an entry for a plaque. (At least I can get that at the Times. The Journal, which uses the same rights service, doesn't even give me that option. Guess a few pennies from the hoi polloi just aren't worth it, huh?)
Bring up the NYT plaque link, and this is what you get - a flaming application! So much for impulse purchase.
All I wanted was to spend maybe $15, $20 on a nice plaque. Instead, I have to fill out an application (don't even know what the price might be) that gets forwarded to someplace else and ... no, I don't think so.
At McClatchy papers I get this screen showing me all these products I can buy with this reprint -- plaques, e-prints, counter cards, posters. And I get to the bottom and there's another flaming "quote" form. OK, I can see this if I wanted to buy several hundred reprints or wanted to license the content for a book or something. That involves lots of complicated rights and legal language. But to buy a simple plaque or get a simple single-copy reprint, you can't quote me a price and let me make an order? I have to, in effect, apply?
Photos are the ultimate impulse purchase. So how easy is it to do? Not very.
For instance, while the Times, the Journal and McClatchy papers have all those nice reprint links for stories, you'd be hard-pressed to find a photo link under the photo. Oh sure, lots of execs will tell you they'd love to sell you a photo - if you click here and here and here and here. When was the last time a store sold you anything you had to walk to the back and root around to get unless you were bound and determined to have it? Simple fact of retail: If you want to sell red dresses, you put the dresses in the window and near the door. You make it easy for people.
There are some weird permutations on this out there, too. For instance, at the Greenville News, a Gannett paper, you won't find a "buy this" link under the photo next to the story.
But if you're smart enough to go to the photo galleries (which aren't really galleries at all) and click on one, you'll find a "reprint" button after every photo. Of course, there were five or six back-to-school "galleries," and each "gallery" was actually a slide show, requiring me to click individually through picture after picture after picture (72 in the first gallery). After about 35 clicks, some of which were barely incremental shots of the same kids getting off a bus, you can imagine I gave up. Never did find the cute kid up there. Had he been mine, I would have been annoyed at best, which of course is what you want to do to your impulse purchasers.
(Note: Photo gallery does not equal photo trash bucket; three shots of the same thing from the same angle, etc., unless you're talking a sports play or an emergency, isn't photography. It's holding down the shutter button and then dumping whatever comes up onto online. And putting them all sequentially, instead of a true gallery where I as a reader can weave my own path, says lots about understanding the customer.)
At the Seattle Times, it's similar - no "buy this" in the caption, but click to enlarge the photo and voila - a reprint link. Only when I went to buy this:
I was redirected to this:
I never could find that photo, though there were several other nice images. But I didn't want them. I had that impulse, you see ...
Kudos to Greenville for one thing, however. When I did click through to buy a photo, it automatically transferred that photo's information over to the form and instantly showed me prices.
Thus, I was excited when I saw Greenville's rival, the Herald Journal of Spartanburg, had a "buy photo" link under its photos.
Alas, when I click through, none of the info follows and I find myself again presented with a set of galleries to root through.
So some suggestions:
7 things every news site should do to sell reprints
- Make sure there is a clear "buy photo" link under every caption for a staff photo and a "buy reprint" (not just "reprint"-make clear money changes hands) with every local story.
- Figure out how to work into your workflow a process where a watermark goes on every one of those photos, so the right-clickers are further encouraged to hit the "buy" link. (You can scoff and say 72 dpi, or even less in some cases, is fuzzy and can't be enlarged, etc. But in these days of ever-smaller screens, it might be "good enough" without some further marking. Besides, you keep saying you want some idea where your content is going, right?)
- When your customer - yes, customer - clicks on the buy button, make sure he or she is not assaulted by legal-looking forms and language. You are simply not that important, whether you are the New York Times or the Daily Tattler.
- Instead, figure out what your most popular product is and provide that and a price right up front.
- Of course, provide other options and try to upsell. But the best way to do that is pile impulse on impluse, and that means getting details out there so I can buy it now.
- Make it easy to buy and easy to pay.
- Look for other things you can handle the same way.
Just a thought, and I can see lots of complications with that idea, but that one thing is a small thing. More important, I'll believe news managers are actually getting it when I see them make it much easier to buy stuff off their sites.
*Well, some may scoff. This isn't a store and journalism isn't retail and this just hits the slippery slope and ....
Oh come on. Get off it. None of this impinges the journalism, but it does maybe let you make an extra few bucks off it. That won't save the republic, but these days, every bit helps. It also might just get us thinking more about that person we purport to care about and serve - the reader, user, viewser -- in short, the customer. Why, let this get out of hand and we might even start writing stories more with those folks in mind. But let's not get wild and crazy.