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Regional press urged to rethink mobile business model

Regional newspapers need to re-think their mobile strategies if they want to make money from the platform, according to new research.

Journalism researchers Francois Nel and Oscar Westlund say newspapers are currently directing their content to mobile channels with “no hint of a business model.”

They found that newspapers in 66 cities have mostly abandoned experiments with paid-for SMS delivery and have instead created free mobile websites.

A report drawn up by the pair concluded: “Unless newspapers rethink their current approaches, there is little evidence to indicate that newspapers will have any more economic success with mobile than they have had thus far online.”

The survey found that of 23 papers with mobile sites, only three sell display advertising against their pages, and that classified advertising, which was launched onto 11 of those sites in 2010, is now entirely absent.

In addition, according to the report, only one regional title, the Belfast Telegraph, currently charges anything for a mobile/tablet app.

The report, entitled ‘The 4 Cs of Mobile News: Channels, Conversations, Content and Commerce,’ concluded that the vast majority of publishers are not engaging with their users through mobile channels and publishers are tentative about developing content for this platform.

“Limited commercial practices from the web have been transferred to mobile. Current commercial approaches do little to bolster fledgling online businesses, much less make up for any losses in print circulation sales and the concomitant decline in advertising income,” it stated.

The findings were revealed at the recent Future of Journalism conference at Cardiff University.

Presenting the paper at the conference Oscar Westlund said: “Publishers are actively pushing readers away from one medium to the other with no revenue stream.

“For the last two decades, most publishers have operated with one overriding mission – to republish their content on multiple new devices. But mostly that content is retained in its original form.

“By pushing that same content out to new devices for free with no corresponding business model, publishers risk readers substituting their lucrative print habit with cheap or free mobile consumption.”


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  • September 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Gotta hand it to those newspaper MDs.

    If they were as good at innovation as they are at cost-cutting, we’d all be millionaires.

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  • September 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    What a great idea, give the papers away for free online or via mobile apps, that way nobody needs to buy the printed/paid for product. Its no wonder that the newspaper industry is going down hill at such an unprecedented rate. I for one, never go directly to a newspaper site for current news, there is so much choice on the web, why would you? Advertising on the web is fraught with danger, it is too easy for websites to be hijacked by malicious code, you can never be sure that the advert/link you click on, is exactly what you expect, so I would never follow an ad/link from a web page, not worth the risk.

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  • September 27, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    This is not a very good piece of research. For instance the UK’s biggest regional newspaper, Express & Star and its sister paper Shropshire Star package their subscription newspaper subscriptions with the mobile app and enhanced website so if you buy the paper you get access to all medias, which are updated throughout the day. If you are a digital only subscriber you pay.

    As an industry we lost the war with the web when we started giving everything away for free, Web advertising turned out not to be the great white night, in fact it paid cents and dimes rather than dollars so didn’t replace the print ad revenue. With mobile we have a chance not to make that mistake again.

    Like I say though, rubbish research.

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