Thursday, September 14, 2006

How Much Are You Worth, Reader?

Frank Barnako's Media Blog reported yesterday that, among other things, an online media reader is worth 1/3 the price of a traditional media reader.

According to Outsell, Inc., the leading research and advisory firm for the information industry, many online publishers are at a stalemate for new readers, and that newspapers’ online ad revenue growth rate of about 30% masks the larger problem that online revenues aren’t replacing lost print revenues fast enough.

This does not bode well for digital media, even though print circulation continues on its decline. But really, is an online consumer worth less than a traditional consumer?

I'd venture to say no. At least, not as a definitive rule.

The print structure has had centuries to perfect itself and establish a solid foundation for the business, including printing presses, delivery decisions, and marketing methods to keep subscribers hanging on. The new media, on the other hand, is operating in a fairly less-than-stable atmosphere - the internet. With many publishers too slow-footed to act rationally in the long-term in this new atmosphere (after all, isn't Gawker's Nick Denton a pariah of the digital media business model?), I think it's no trend that the online reader is worth less.

In fact, I think the online consumer is worth more.

With a defined ad strategy (banners, etc.) in place, it's my opinion that an online publisher reaps more for less - delivery cost is nearly zero, product distribution is instantaneous, physical product production is nearly zero (such is the business of selling information), and a completely easy way to link someone directly to a consumer (links, links, links!), the digitally-savvy consumer will end up being worth more. This survey comes during a time when the NY Times is seen as the only company pushing foward in the online space and many publishers haven't figured out that most would rather read a clean, classy website than pick up a coffee-stained edition from the bodega on the corner, and I think it's premature to assess a consumer's worth.

Sure, the numbers dictate the reality of it, but I don't check my stocks every day, either.

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