Are your readers this loyal? Are you sure?

This was something that could soften an ink-stained wretch’s heart. In light of the announcement yesterday that the New York Times plans to lay off another 100 newsroom employees, an unusual thing occurred. A few readers commenting on the story said they would be willing to pay for online content if it meant keeping reporters and editor working.

Read it here: http://www.observer.com/2009/media/comments-nyt-readers-beg-pay-online

While it is uplifting that there is reader support for paid content, the question remains just how deep does that loyalty go? And while certainly there is loyalty for the New York Times, will that same loyalty transfer down to the Daily Bugle?

My gut feeling is that, yes, there is loyalty for small, local newspapers that tend to be the main source of information in a community, and that loyalty may actually be enough to support it. But I don’t believe that loyalty grows proportionately with a newspaper’s size. The Times and  other larger metropolitan and regional papers will generate some revenue, but it won’t be enough to offset lost revenues in decreased circulations and ad revenues.

Yes, this wretch is warmed by the reader comments in the Times, but my heart is still cold enough to realize that new readers will still put free before brand. Unless you make your  brand valuable and convenient, the majority won’t be willing to pay.

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