Provocative question, of course... Some newspapers still make money (but not all of them, and most of the time thanks to the web or services...)
What's more, while the french press is working on its future at the General States of Press(since thursday morning), which want us to believe that the problem can be solved by helping the constitution of huge medias groups (but who believes it?), or that free internet is not the future of news (president Nicolas Sarkozy says thursday), we can legitimately think about this idea, which is not less serious than the first one. Just to think about it... Just to know. Just in case...
And what if, tomorrow, as the financial system today, the press industry falls down? So indebted that anyone holding a big cash pile could buy it for nothing.
Or just incapable to pay for its paper and journalists?
Impossible of course... But.. in case of... Let's say: maybe...
So while newspapers continue to fire more and more people, and lose money one the print section (-$77 millions ad lost on print vs. + $6 millions earned on the web for the Washington Post in 2007), where should they invest the money (if they still have some) ?
On which model shall we build the future medias ?
Today, most of 70% of the newspapers' budget is going to fabrication and distribution (around 40% for the only distribution!).
And we can say (if we count editorial jobs that are not useful online...) that, even if the ad incomes are 8 to 10 times bigger on the print than online, maybe we could build a healthy business (and save some money) by getting rid of paper...
There's a revolution to make, that is not made for a lot of medias (especially in France) and some courageous investments: do we have to invest in our old industry to involve the distribution for example, or should we switch definitly to the online distribution, and invest massively on the web to avoid catastrophy ? Of course it depends on each newspaper's situation
But maybe is the catastrophy nearer than we imagine (it's not me but the Deutsche bank talking) . So we have to play fast.
One of the problematic issue is still: is the online business model strong enough?
So, lets imagine: what if we decide to stop printing and invest all our money online? Would it be realistic? Short term? No? Middle term?
In his blog, Frédéric Filloux, dares to make some calculations..
A little bit unpredictable... but it helps to start the conversation about it...
Filloux asks: how could we transform a print newsroom in an only web based newsroom? How much would it cost to do that?
"I am sure we can produce good quality general news coverage with one hundred full-time equivalent dedicated journalists", Filloux says.
So: 100 journalists + technical, marketing, administrative... = €10M/ year
What trafic can generate 10 million a year?
New figures : "the average income per visitor per month appears to range from €0.10 to €0.25" A €850,000 per month income (10 million/year), "requires a hefty 8.3 million UV per month".
That is very approximative, you can earn €850,000 with less... or the contrary..., depending on the brand, on the target and on the position of the media compared to its concurrents (for exemple 20minutes.fr= 60%lemonde.fr in VU, but 10% of its ad revenues...)
In conclusion, it's very complicated.
Filloux gives 2 tips :
- Don't think packaged websites, prefer one section (like sports, politics), one site. It costs less but has more potential (ex: Huffington Post, specialised in politics makes more audience than Los Angeles Times, generalist).
- Diversify revenues: develop services on your news website. Not new, but still relevant.
1- Move your print newsroom online? Theoretically, yes. But... which newsroom? Print journalists? I know no print newsroom able to push all its journalists to become online journalists (but I may be wrong). A ask a friend (who rules training sessions for print journalists in a big french newspaper): "How many of them are ready to move online?" His answer: "0".
2- And do we need a huge newsroom? 100 journalists= a hundred times bigger audience than 20 journalists? It doesn't work like that. A new journalism appears on the web, but not necessarily with a single and huge newsroom (outsourcing rise), and not necessarily with journalists...
So: 100, 50, or... 10?
3- Business on the web is always approximative...