Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 25, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY


Commentary: Online publications seek new revenue strategies

At some point in the last decade, everyone has likely heard at least once that newspapers are dying. While this is true in the literal sense, that physical print newspapers will eventually cease to exist, the news outlets that produce newspapers will simply continue to transition to the digital medium.

Print publishers primarily earn revenue through two methods: selling subscriptions and individual issues, and selling space in their publications for advertisements. Since the emergence of the Internet, these revenue streams have been steadily declining. Most readers get their news for free from online publications. Meanwhile, businesses have noticed the decline in newspaper readership and found more effective places to advertise their goods and services.

At this point in time, nearly all news outlets have either created a website to go with their print product or completely replaced their print product with a website. It’s clear so far these websites are not bringing in the same levels of revenue that print publications were used to receiving. Few online publications have found successful models for pay-to-view content and digital advertisements.

The market for digital advertisements is much more competitive than the market for print advertisements because the digital market also includes non-news websites. Digital publications have experimented with new forms of writing in an attempt to boost readership and increase their appeal to advertisers.

Journalists have moved away from traditional news stories and toward breaking coverage and in-depth, long-form writing. However, even with high page views, the more competitive digital market still offers less revenue than the print market.

This decline in revenue doesn’t mean journalism is dying like many would suggest. Rather, the industry is in a state of flux that will result in new sources of revenue. Even now, publications are finding new ways to fund themselves.

Some news outlets, such as The Telegraph and Yahoo, operate fantasy sports leagues as a means of additional revenue. Members pay a fee to join the league and then look to the news outlet for information about their players. These online publications receive revenue directly from league members, and the additional page views make it more appealing to advertisers.

Other news outlets have benefited from sponsoring specialty sister websites. Publications like CNN Money and The New York Times sponsor job board websites that link back to their main pages. This has become a strategy utilized by business publications that produce content relating to the job market and career advancement that people looking for jobs may be interested in.

Meanwhile, digital publications are continuing to experiment with other new revenue streams. Likely in the near future, the journalism industry will be made up of firms operating in an assortment of markets while also putting out news content.

The key for news outlets as they develop new revenue strategies is to maintain the values of traditional journalism. Though the presentation of news will continue to change as the industry develops, journalists must still strive for objectivity, fairness in reporting, independence, accuracy and integrity. As publishers focus on finding new ways to bring in revenue, reporters and editors cannot let the quality of the journalism they produce decline.   

Jack Curran is a senior journalism and economics major and the editor-in-chief of The Ithacan. Email him at [email protected]