Advertising Uber Alles?

Today I’m catching up on the nail-biting at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention last week as News Corporation’s Rupert Murdoch delivered an insightful speech warning that Internet publishing was poised to eat newspaper’s advertising lunch. Murdoch referenced a prediction by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates that “the Internet would attract $30 billion in advertising revenue annually within the next three years. To give you some perspective, this would equal the entire advertising revenue currently generated each year by the newspaper industry as a whole.” A report in Paid Content, based on after-speech Q&A, quotes Murdoch as saying: “”I don’t hold out any hopes for people to be paying for our Internet sites. They have to be popular enough to hold a lot of advertising.” Thus one media mogul ranked content as less than a commodity, because even a commodity commands some payment. Content, it seems, is flypaper, valueable only if it catches eyeballs. Those are some hard words for this middle-aged news-gatherer to swallow, but consider this other evidence, also gleaned from Paid Content. The Financial Times is launching a free synopsis of its paid newspaper that will be delivered in the afternoon, both in print and online (PDF) versions. The Swedish newspaper chain Metro International, thus-far based on free distribution of easy-to-read print editions, is delving into free online publication through a new division Metro Modern Media. Online advertising is clearly growing, and newspapers are seeing their websites deliver much larger percentage increases than their “mature” print editions. Paid Content noted that the New York Time said online advertising for the first quarter rose about 30 percent compared to flat or down performance for the print editions of its flagship New York and Boston papers. The paper’s chief executive sidestepped the question of whether the paper would charge for website access. Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal, the great exception to the no-charge rule, may be angling to boost $79 non-print subscription rate it has enforced since 2002. So which way is the content pendulum swinging, toward Free Rupert or the the Way of the WSJ? More tomorrow.

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media