Thursday, April 16, 2009

online-onlies: what's the rush?

The Guardian reports that a new study out of City University of London has found that when newspapers go online only, they may well lose more than they gain: The costs of print production would need to "significantly outstrip" the paper's income to make online-only a viable alternative.

And with most print products still making at least minimal profits, you have to wonder: why the rush?

The study focused on Europe's first online-only, the Finnish financial newspaper Taloussanomat, which went from print to digital in December 2007. The aftermath? Costs fell by 50 percent, but readership declined by 22 percent and revenues dropped by more than 75 percent.

Whether or not the findings will apply to other online-onlies, especially in the U.S. -- too early to tell. But according to Neil Thurman, one of the study's authors, there are a couple of issues that might be relevant:

"Just having the print product out there on news stands does promote the website. They also cut their newsroom staff, and so the quality of content did suffer.

"But probably the most important factor is that it's a different medium that is used in a different way. You might spend one and a half minutes a day with the brand online, instead of half an hour a day with a printed product."

You can read the whole study here. bk

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