Quick on the heels of former Time magazine managing editor Walter Isaacson suggesting that a possible business model for newspapers and magazines is online micropayments comes Michael Kinsley, founding editor of Slate magazine, to dismiss the idea just because he couldn’t get anyone to pay for his online magazine.
Writing an op-ed piece for The New York Times, Kinsley latches onto Isaacson’s arbitrary suggestion the New York paper might charge $2 a month for an online subscription. He dismisses this by noting this, at the current circulation level, would raise $24 million a year, while the paper now makes $668 million a year from its printed circulation.
“Two bucks per reader per month is not going to save newspapers,” Kinsley states.
Of course, he never says what it costs in newsprint and drivers and fuel and pressmen to fetch that $668 million and apparently assumes the printed version would disappear. He assumes no increase in circulation. He fails to account for cost savings. He fails to consider online advertising revenue that might accrue to a site that can prove people really read it, because they are willing to pay.
“With even half a dozen papers, the American newspaper industry will be more competitive than it was when there were hundreds,” Kinsley postulates without a shred of evidence. “Competition will keep the Baghdad bureaus open and the investigative units stoked with dudgeon. Competition is growing as well among Web sites that think there is money to be made performing the local paper’s local functions. One or two of these will turn out to be right. And then, who will pay even a nickel for the hometown rag?”
Competition for what? Bragging rights? The first to reach the door of the poorhouse?