How Süddeutsche Zeitung makes bank

What I found most interesting about Wolfgang Krach’s presentation was his explanation of the way the website works for Süddeutsche Zeitung. Their Web content does not match the print newspaper. There are articles on the website, but there are also teasers that hint at the print copy’s content. This seems like a great strategy for the business realm of journalism.

The New York Times allows people to read 20 articles online, for free, each month. The reader can even click on the front page and read full versions of the front-page articles. This limit on articles is still enough to satisfy some readers. There are plenty of people who read news inconsistently. The Times does not gain revenue from these readers.

With the shaky state of the newspaper industry in the U.S., one would expect newspapers to do everything possible to increase revenue. Free online content that matches the print version strikes me as counterproductive. If newspapers used the Web to entice readers to buy the print version, newspapers could possibly increase revenues. There has been a lot of discussion about establishing paywalls for the use of online news articles, but there is disagreement over the possible methods that could be employed.

For people who want to read the news solely online, but who are willing to pay for full articles, there could be a separate subscription that allows online access to full articles. This would be similar to online research databases and encyclopedias, which allow non-registered users to view a portion of the article, but only registered, paying users have access to the full version.

It’s strange that Süddeutsche Zeitung does not have a full-access online option. From my experience traveling in Germany, people are much more environmentally conscious in Germany than in the U.S. An online subscription option might be more attractive to Germans who don’t want to throw paper away each day.

Although Süddeutsche Zeitung operates in a country with a more favorable attitude toward newspapers than the U.S., the German newspaper’s success is probably partly attributed to the supplementary relationship between their website and print version. Large newspapers in the U.S. should look into adopting that method.

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