Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ex-L.A. Times exec: Papers must build audience with engagement, not limit it with paywalls

Being a part of the community and building subscribers, not paywalls, is the key for community newspapers to survive the digital age, says a former senior vice president and deputy publisher of the Los Angeles Times who is known as an innovator in technology and politics

In a talk at the Harvard University's Kennedy School of Govrnment, Mele said, "Although some news organizations are seeing the largest online audiences they have ever had, revenue is still shrinking... Print advertising still generates the vast majority of newspaper revenue—an undesirable situation, given the cost of printing," Nilagia McCoy reports for Journalist's Resource, a service of the school's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

“Part of the challenge is an over-reliance on paywalls—people think you put up a wall, and that’s how you’re going to force people to pay," he said. "I think that building a subscription base is a lot more about engaging people in a variety of channels. ... Paywalls also hurt digital distribution on platforms such as Google and Facebook."

Mele said native advertising, the digital form of advertorial, "could be a way for local news outlets to win back advertising dollars lost to competitors such as Google and Craigslist," McCoy writes. He told audience members, “We’ve surrendered too much to the technology industry. “To a large extent, Facebook and Google substantially own audiences’ attention the way that newspapers used to.” He said people “are hungry for the brands they trust in their community” and news outlets should “fight back.”

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