By: Staff Reports

But Survey Finds They Aren’t Making Much Money

With the online advertising model at least temporarily kaput, it seems like everybody is talking about charging for content. Adding fuel to the fire is a survey out this week showing that 82% of daily newspapers currently sell some form of their content online.

Consulting firm Advanced Interactive Media Group said 70 of the 140 newspapers contacted agreed to participate in the survey, which attempted to balance the responses between six circulation categories and three regions. The smallest paper had a circulation of 10,000. The study was commissioned by Clickshare Service Corp., which sells its proprietary micropayments technology to newspapers.

The vast majority (78%) sell archived stories only, while 4% sell other types of content, such as photos and audio reports.

No one’s making much money from these sales. Of the surveyed newspapers, 57% said their online revenue sales were less than $500 per month. Thirty-one percent reported revenues of $501 to $2,500 per month. Only 4% said they made more than $5,000 per month.

The study only addressed direct sales of online content. It did not include the multimillion-dollar sales of content to databases such as Lexis-Nexis or to microfilm producers.

Most newspapers (63%) are charging $1 to $1.50 per archived story. “Everyone adopted the same pricing structure when we started Web sites a few years back,” said Mike Lawrence Blinder, one of the authors of the study. He believes papers might make more money if they lowered the prices to overcome consumers’ resistance to spend “too much” for an article. Another option is to sell unlimited-access passes to the archives by the day, week, or month.

A micropayments system would ease acceptance of either option, Blinder said. Several newspapers are currently using these “digital wallet” systems provided by Qpass of Seattle or Clickshare, based in Williamstown, Mass.

Almost half of the newspapers surveyed said they are considering expanding their paid online content, which might include in-depth news and photos.

Free copies of the report are available at

Editor’s note: E&P magazine will have more coverage of the “pay-for-content” issue in the April 30th print issue.

Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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