Archive for November 2nd, 2010

Charlotte’s online newspaper for the masses

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

In a detailed Charlotte Magazine piece about the Internet-age transformation of the Charlotte Observer, Publisher Ann Caulkins predicts 20 percent of the company’s total ad revenue will come from the Internet by year’s end and in five years nearly half will be from the Web.

But while its 22 Facebook pages, 31 Twitter feeds and 40+ blogs bring the Observer more readers than ever, so far the online transformation isn’t paying the bills.

“At the top of the front page, the Observer brags it is ‘Read by 1 million+ in print and online.’ The total monthly number of different readers from everywhere is a whopping 2.3 million, which would have been a staggering number of readers for any newspaper in the pre-Internet days. Therein lies the problem. As sportswriter [Ron Green Jr.] puts it, ‘If you look at our business model, we’re trying to sell something (the news) that’s now free.’ Basically, if you read the Observer website in the evening, you won’t learn much new by purchasing next morning’s print edition. The other problem with the Observer’s business model is that it really relies on advertising revenue, and so far, an online ad brings in a fraction of the revenue a print ad does.”

Meanwhile, the money-making “print edition has lost one out of five readers in the past six years, and Sunday readership is down 8 percent in the same time frame,” the magazine says.

In the future, Caulkins predicts, the print edition will be a niche publication “mainly for the affluent and well educated, a readership highly coveted by advertisers.” The Web will be for the masses.