Monday, March 16, 2009

The 90/40 dilemma

The chart above is from the Pew Project's 2009 State of the News Media, sourced to the Newspaper Association of America and other research. The portion in red is revenue from online advertising; the gren(ish) portion is from print revenue sources. (Click on it to see a larger version, or go look at it and many others at the Pew site.)

The chart's numbers are updated only through 2007, but the underlying reality hasn't changed since. Roughly 90% of newspaper company revenue is still generated by print subscriptions and advertising, while only about 40% of its costs are attributable to printing and distributing the dead trees.

Kill off your print edition right now, in other words, and you're giving up virtually all of your revenue but keeping the lion's share of the costs.

I hear from new media types all the time that the first step to take in finding the future is to stop the presses. Go online only, or mobile only, or digital only. But as long as the calculus looks like this, you'll be hard pressed to convince many publishers.

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