I wrote first last week about my employer, The Cincinnati Enquirer, experimenting with a print-only strategy for certain stories to boost Sunday single-copy sales.
Not long afterward, I was in a meeting where we decided on the next course of this ever-evolving experiment – and came up with a conclusion web readers should find a bit more agreeable.
This past Sunday, the logo and experiment changed from “Print Exclusive” to “Print First”. This week, the six selected Sunday stories were promoted on Cincinnati.Com and held from online publication until today. This was intended to give more value to the printed Sunday edition without keeping the stories unavailable for online and out-of-market readers. This was a solution suggested by many of those who responded to my post last week (more on that later) and very agreeable compromise in our editor meetings on the subject.
While I don’t know how it worked for print sales, it seemed to work well for us on the online side at Cincinnati.Com. Mondays are notoriously slow for news with art, so these embargoed Sunday blowouts have been there for us to use today in prominent spots – and a few of them (like this piece on Larry Flynt’s family lawsuit – like that isn’t just primed for the web) are doing very well in terms of page views.
We’ve known for awhile that our online readers and print readers are not usually the same – not just here, but at all newspaper sites. A strategy like this seems to reflect that as well, since the stories we held from online yesterday are today enjoying new life and a burst of traffic (not to mention placement in search engines and linkage from all over).
Simply put, we shouldn’t try to sell our web readers the print newspaper – if anything, we should try to sell them news they want in the format they want it. Newspapers can’t afford to devalue the web audience if they want to succeed in the long run, hence why everyone’s trying to find a way to make money online in the form of paywalls, freemium content, micropayments and whatever else is coming down the pike.
While I’m personally not crazy about some of those plans, I think anything is better than entirely withholding the news from the web audience. Judging from the responses I got last week and what we discussed internally at the Enquirer, I’m not the only one.
Here are some of the responses I was sent via email and social media to the “Print Exclusive” experiment:
– I purchase the paper every Sunday and truly enjoyed [last week’s] piece on homeless teens…. I was however disappointed when I could not find the article online, as I wanted to email it/tweet it. I see the point in having print-exclusives to drive paper sales, but I am wondering if it might not be possible to post the articles online once the print editions are no longer available?
– If the Enquirer sold the Sunday sports section as a standalone print product, I’d buy that, but that’s all I’d want. Mostly I’m a web reader.
– I can see not putting the content online before print, but don’t make it unavailable to me online. Even if I have to pay for it or buy a day pass to your e-edition, at least I have a way to read it if I want.
– You should be able to “buy” daily copies of the paper online in the e-edition. Maybe even just make the Sunday e-edition a subscription option. I’d buy it.
– This seems kinda bass ackwards to me. You should be increasing your online presence rather than reducing it. I think the proposed pay model for the New York Times is perfectly agreeable and I have no problem subscribing to that.
What about you? What do you think of this latest plan?