Harvard’s Nieman Lab profiled the Boston Courant, a local paper with a 40,000 circulation. The paper is successful, because it refuses to have a website. The publisher, David Jacobs, realized a website would cost him more business than it added. So, he never created one.
“I love journalism, but I’m also a business man,” Jacobs said, “and I have to stay in business and hopefully not just stay where I am but grow…In business, one of my philosophies has been the first pioneer into enemy territory gets all the arrows. Let someone else pay. I’m not going to experiment unless I see a profitable end game. And the bottom line there is I see no possible way to benefit my print advertisers, who pay my reporters’ salaries and my overhead, by having a website.”
Unique circumstances make this strategy for The Courant possible. It’s specialty, Boston real estate news, has little competition. It’s target audience is wealthy and, thus, particularly valuable to advertisers. This model would not work for say the Boston Globe.
This story highlights a basic fact: no one has figured out how to monetize the Internet effectively. For typed words to stand alone, media must cross two fundamental barriers. First, we need a better metric to sell to advertisers than straight pageviews, before we all burn out and/or introduce Softcore Saturdays. Second, traditional media must find some way to make a non-invasive paid subscription model work.
[Photo via Getty]