Newspapers are losing tens of millions of pounds of potential advertising revenue by simply using the wrong system for charging.
Accountants Ernst & Young carried out research into the UK newspaper industry’s approach to the web and concluded that switching to the cost-per-click system of charging favoured by the likes of Google could help generate millions of pounds of extra revenue.
The E&Y study also encourages newspapers to be more innovative in attracting young readers to help counter decades of circulation decline by offering more free titles and by advertising through social networking sites, rather than relying on expensive cover-mounted giveaways for short-term circulation boosts.
All sensible advice and certainly the need to attract the next generation of readers is vitally important. Making a move to cost-per-click would make a whole lot of sense for newspapers.
But, as ever, the bigger battle is actually getting people to “click” in the first place.
The Birmingham Post’s recent relaunch of its website shows how titles are finally learning the need to explore the opportunities presented by the internet and particularly the potential that exists with Web 2.0.
Yet it is also clear from some of the new features that transforming the way an established title like the Post operates and getting existing readership and new readership on board with the changes is not a straight-forward process and will not happen overnight. User-generated content is a great idea, but only if the users can be bothered.
“Build it and they will come” is all very well in theory, but in reality it doesn’t matter if you have all the latest, bright and shiny new features in place if people simply aren’t going to your website.
The investment, both nationally and regionally, continues to pour in. Some newspapers have been more proactive and innovative than others but even they are still learning the hard way that the times are not just a-changing, they’ve already moved on and keep evolving.
The media is playing catch-up with its audience and readership. The fuss and furore The Guardian recently faced over an ill-advised travel blog was down to the blog watchers feeling insulted and patronised by those running the newspapers site. Indeed, there are other examples on other mainstream media blogs where the readership has revolted in similar fashion.
There is still a huge amount of work that all newspapers, no matter how good and strong their web presence and whether they are national or regional titles, need to do before they can start taking advantage of the potential millions Ernst & Young has identified.