NYT and FT show print can successfully move online. This will be harder for Indian papers, though
Print media’s move on to the internet was always seen as a risky manoeuvre. Readers on the internet are used to free content, and online advertising rates are lower than the ones garnered in print. Most major media houses found their revenues sliding sharply due to their presence on the internet, prompting many—the New York Times and the Financial Times, to name a couple—to introduce a paid format for their internet content. This strategy, initially seen as suicide in the face of readers’ affinity for free content, seems to finally be working out. The NYT’s fourth quarter results for 2012 are a case in point—its circulation revenue jumped 16.1% driven primarily by the growth in digital subscription, which increased 13% quarter on quarter. This increase in digital subscriptions should come as a relief to the company since advertising revenue slid in the same period. Indeed, according to the company, this was the first time circulation revenue outdid that from advertising. This online success has been replicated by the FT as well. Last July, the paper said digital subscribers—which grew 31%—outnumbered those in print and that digital revenue accounted for half of all sales of the FT group.
While print media is still growing in India because of increased circulation and income, print media houses in the country will nevertheless have to confront the shift to the internet soon. A report by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers found that advertising accounts for 80% of total revenues among English newspapers in India. This, coupled with the fact that almost all these papers’ digital content is free at the moment, means that the shift online will entail a significant strategy change. Maybe they should begin to acclimatise readers to the online shift of revenue-generation by starting a few online paid services.