Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Raising Newspaper Ad Rates: Fulfilling the Vision of EPIC 2015?

WSJ Online notes that in the face of free competitors such as Web portals, Craigslist and ad-supported street handouts many newspaper companies have decided to...raise their ad rates. While this would seem to defy some basic rules of economics regarding supply and demand, it's been a tactic that has at least stanched the blood of falling revenues in the short run. WSJ notes that Gannett Co.'s USA Today has been able to keep ad revenues at least flat through an 8 percent raise in rates as ad packages dropped 6 percent for the last six months, so at least the move has kept the cash flowing. But obviously the move is towards smaller audiences who prefer print delivery. At this rate newspapers may yet fulfill the dark view of the future found in the EPIC 2015 online multimedia essay: in EPIC 2015 (nee EPIC 2014) it's presumed that by 2014 The New York Times will fold and become a newsletter for the elderly and the elite.

But would that be such a bad thing? As noted in The New York Times itself, SoBe News, the developers of Ocean Drive magazine for the affluent South Beach community in Miami, Florida, is launching a magazine with a fixed circulation of 25,000 in February. The magazine will be distributed exclusively to current and prospective owners of condominiums developed by a Florida developer. The ability of print to appeal to upscale readers with time on their hands and coffee tables on which to put flashy status magazines is going to keep ad costs comfortably high for these types of niche publications for quite some time to come, especially when it's an elite few who can receive them at all. Much of the Times' print ad content is decidedly upscale already, as is its community-oriented content, so to some degree the Times is already on this path of catering to the carriage trade and drifting away from mass audiences.

The answer to the dilemma of what to do with print may be to push harder to make it a more exclusive medium, both through demographics and the quality of personalized services that can be made available in customized print delivery. As to what this may mean for the quality of news coverage is a debate for another day, but it's a trend that's progressing perhaps far more quickly than even EPIC 2015 is predicting. The sooner that news publishers can move away from status quo print publications the sooner that they'll find a solid bottom to falling circulation and through loyal and appreciative targeted audiences.
Post a Comment