If I wish to read more than 20 articles a month on the Telegraph website I now have to pay £1.99 a month. And so the Telegraph loses another reader and an active one. I am not sure how much it makes in online revenue but if we say that it is £4 per 1000 Page impressions I think that the paper is now about £1 a month worse off.
I read that paper out of habit not because it offers that much. My most visited page was the Premiership table which I seem to check far too often. But I can get that data elsewhere for free as I can also get for free West Ham team news and forthcoming fixtures. I read the odd news story but it is a commodity so I can get that elsewhere.
I do like reading Christopher Booker’s column but Richard North always reprints that on his blog. And so I am left with Jeremy Warner (who is occasionally good), Ambrose E-P and Tom Stevenson. And that probably comes to about 15 columns a month which I may bother to read. Because I was drawn in by the columnists and the league table I inevitably ended up reading a few more articles but I did not need to. They were junk food. So I was responsible for a good slug of Page Impressions.
This is the problem that newspapers have. They have high fixed costs (staff, printing presses, lavish offices) and 98% of their content is commodity content. Why should anyone pay a fee to cover all those fixed costs when all they want is the odd bit of unique content? Start charging me 2p a go to read a given column and I might well play ball and then read all that junk food material and give the paper advertising income as well. As things stand I, will like many others, just turn away.
I used to read the Times online. I thought I’d miss Matthew Parris and his excellent column. But there are now no withdrawal symptoms. I am sure that in a few months I shall feel the same way about Ambrose, Jeremy and Tom.
The eyeball advertising revenue that I used to generate will go to the Daily Mail, the West Ham United website or West Ham Till I die and to EUReferendum (North’s blog). My thirst for opinionated columnists will be sated by the Mail stable, the Guardian and by a myriad of bloggers including Mark Steyn, Zero Hedge, Ann Coulter, Richard North, Velvet Glove and an ever increasing array of folks who are just too spikey to fit in with the dying mainstream press.
Meanwhile as every cold April day passes some older folk who buy the deadwood product shuffle off to a better place and are replaced by young people who do not read papers at all.
Most newspapers already lose money. Things can only get worse for an industry that is dying on its feet.