I have been an avid subscriber to my local paper, the Chronicle Herald, for a little under a year now. It arrives faithfully – with the exception of a few hiccups – every morning 7 days a week. Every day I take the time to read what I can and what interests me from the paper. It is one of the many sources and mediums I get my worldly news and information. To that extent I enjoy having the paper and the side benefit of supporting local journalist jobs and a local business. Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, it even comes with the added bonus of the weekly flyers. Unlike the ones that are delivered in with the postal mail every day, I actually enjoy these flyers as they are from some of my favorite stores.
So it is clear, I enjoy my local paper. I want to support my local paper. But right now I am not happy with my local paper. In today’s mail I received a letter from the Herald informing me that I am a valued customer, that they are enhancing the product, and they want more money for the subscription.
Typically a small increase in subscription fees is not a huge issue and generally speaking I am not opposed to the principal. Though, in today’s age I wonder if continuing with the paper product is necessary as the primary method of delivery. Should the paper, in its paper form, be regulated as a niche medium to the product? Let’s be clear that the product is the content not the physical paper! To confuse the two would be a mistake. After all, they pay their staff to produce pieces of journalism not folded pieces of paper.
Given the letter about the increase in fees and the afore mentioned hiccups in delivery I have started thinking about how the Chronicle Herald could evolve to provide me more bang for my buck. For $20 a month I could have a paper product delivered to my building that occasionally results in the frustration of a missed delivery or a paper taken by a neighbor. The production of the physical product is a highly recyclable result though its production is not environmentally friendly. Take in consideration other variables like the paper getting wet , ripped, etc and you can see how people might want a bit more than the status quo for more money.
What I propose though is not a radical shift in direction for the Herald but an evolution of the delivery. Many companies have flirted with moving to a website based paper. This does offer them a virtually unlimited space to produce content that a physical paper limits. It offers search ability, ease of archives, a world audience, and so forth. But it has been difficult for the industry to monetize that particular business model. So while I don’t think it is a model that is unsustainable – I just think it is being done wrong – it is not the solution I have in mind either.
To see where I am going with this take a long look at your mobile phone. News on my phone? No, not exactly! Think about the business model built from the subsidized subscription method of the mobile phone market. Since the cost of my local paper is now approaching the cost of a basic cell phone contract perhaps it is time to start thinking about such a model, a la Kindel.
By pairing the news service with a long term subscription based model where instead of a physical paper delivered you get it downloaded to your subsidized device such as an Amazon Kindel or other e-reader. I’d be willing to even pay $30 a month for such a service. The benefits of such a device are; reusable, you still benefit from the virtually unlimited space of the cloud, and other services can be used on the device making it versatile product for things like eBooks and magazines, a larger screen than your mobile, etc.
As these devices evolve to offer options for; full color, video, and audio, so does the possibilities for your news agency to produce more and more dynamic content. While I am not advocating for the Kindel in particular it is the most popular e-reader available today and I offer it as an example.
What are your thoughts? Is this the direction the news paper industry should take? Would you pay more for a Kindel (or other like device) to receive your daily paper? Would your current mobile suffice? Comments are always welcome.