Successfully Integrating Print and Digital News

March 8, 2011

This morning as I was waiting for my usual triple venti soy latte at my favorite coffee shop, Starbucks for the record, I perused the headlines at the newsstand.  Sifting through the pages of the Wall Street Journal, one headline in big bold letters caught my attention.  It was teasing the reader to read the story about how merchants entice you to shop and spend your money in their store.  This really got me thinking about how to successfully integrate print with digital.  Even though I have written some related posts before, I truly believe this is the key to the future of print media.  So I decided to explore even further the question of how a local newspaper could integrate with the online version.  Quite frankly, I’ve yet to find any example of where a newspaper is successfully integrating the two and it drives me mad.  Too often a headline will catch my eye and because of my busy schedule I won’t have the time to sit and read it so I’ll remember the headline or the main topic and go online later and try to find the article using the search terms for the newspaper.  It never fails; I am always disappointed and even further frustrated with the industries inability to capitalize on modern technology to meet the consumer’s needs.

One way a newspaper could successfully integrate the two is to actually write the articles for the newspaper with the online version in mind.  The author of each story could link back throughout the article to the online version that would provide expanded content offering further information, sources, statistics, video, interviews and related stories.  Now, the reader not only wants to read the story, but they also have the opportunity to visit the online version to receive additional information that the newspaper didn’t provide.  This is a perfect example of how to marry existing infrastructure to the online version.  This also provides a value added component to the online version that could create another revenue stream for the newspaper.  One of the arguments against online media is that there is no incentive for consumers to pay for it.  This has been an ongoing challenge ever since I started working on this project two years ago.  One concept that I feel is an excellent avenue to achieve this is to provide two versions of the paper.  One would be the standard paper subscription and the other would be the “premium” subscription that would include access to the online version that includes all the integration with expanded stories.  The subscriber would have the option of receiving the standard newspaper, daily or weekly as usual, or paying an up charge for the premium subscription that entitles them to receive the printed newspaper and have access to a fully integrated online version.  This is a natural way to increase the value of the online newspaper.

I think most subscribers would find great value in the ability to access integrated news that provides further information on the stories that most interest them.  This service would be even further enhanced if some of the current limitations were addressed as well.  For example, the search feature of most online versions is virtually nonexistent.  This could easily be addressed by providing some type of article code that the search component could easily link back to eliminating the need for the reader to sift through old archives of unrelated stories looking for something specific.  Another option for the readers that don’t currently have a subscription but instead buy their newspaper from a store or newsstand would be a temporary access code that gives them limited access to the integrated expanded version that expires after a short time.  This not only serves those readers, but also incentivizes them to purchase a premium subscription.  An additional revenue stream could even be the ability for anyone to access the integrated expanded version after paying a nominal onetime fee for a specific article using the article code.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless when you really start to contemplate the potential that exist right now with existing infrastructure and technology.  Successful integration of print and digital is not only possible, but pivotal to the future of the newspaper industry.  Until next time.

Think outside of the newsstand,

Joe

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