When I think of newspapers, I think of tangible objects. Something folded, in front of me, immediate. I think of something I value for a short time, and discard. Something I can scribble on as I try to solve the crossword. I think of journalism, of investigation, of going beyond the headlines and the press statements to generate context, to aid understanding.
I used to think that also meant political impartiality. I reckon that's pretty much impossible, so at least a consistent partiality. But I digress.
Increasingly, I find myself thinking about profit. And in particular, if you are a newspaper how do you make profit from your web site?
I don't think The Times has it right. A blanket paywall is an instant turn-off for the casual browser. I used to read a couple of pages of The Times a month, and now I don't. Yes, my life is lessened by it and I miss reading Caitlin Moran, but it's not hugely lessened.
I don't think The Guardian has it right. Eveything is free, and apparently will stay that way. I read the Guardian on line quite a lot. I use it to dig in to the background of current events. I'll admit that I have some sympathy with its political bias and a generation-old love of its crossword. But I can see things it could charge for.
The basic economics of any free web site is that you give people something for nothing in order to generate income through secondary activity. In the glory days of the web, advertising was seen as the way forward. Eyes on pages mean occasional clicks on banners mean pennies in coffers. In addition, when the web was desk-based, it was hard to take on trains, and so the web site effectively acted as an advert for the more profitable dead-tree version.
However, with web ad revenue insufficient to fund a newspaper - particularly one with journalistic content and not just newswire regurgitation - there are a few areas where cashflow can be generated without putting the whole thing in a box and demanding money to see it.
One approach is to make the news free. This might mean splitting articles in to two - the first part giving you the gist and acting as a teaser for the second part that you have to pay for. If the quality of the first part is good, then the second part is more likely to be bought.
A variation on this theme - make the current news free, but charge for access to the archive. If you've got a big archive, people will value this.
Forums are pretty much essential these days. People want to be able to comment on your stories, no matter how fatuous their comments may be. Monetise this. Either require payment and registration to comment or make all comments anonymous unless you do. Vanity, thy name is profit.
Remember that the way people want to buy your articles will vary. Some people subscribe to newspapers, and some pick them up on a daily basis. Let people buy monthly passes, per article passes, individual issues. Let them rent articles, keep them in a digital locker and delete them after a licence period. Give people ways to interact with your newspaper that keep them coming back, and keep them looking for more.
Remember that corporate bodies are more likely to abide by any terms and conditions than individuals are. Target them. Do deals with companies to give "free" access to their employees, but get a steady corporate income as a result.
Essentially, your content is your advertising. Use it as such.
I know it's been bugging you. What happened to the ten Euro note that I found outside the lift. Did I blow it all on sweeties, or did I carefully pass it to a receptionist and ask her to care for it?
I gave it to the receptionist. It seemed like the best and most honest thing to do, and as it wasn't mine to start with, I didn't feel its loss. Indeed, as it probably belonged to someone from a different company, I would have felt mean taking it, and so I gave it away.
Sadly for the money, it went unclaimed and unloved. An e-mail went out to all staff in the building, but nobody came forward to proudly declare "This is my money, my hard earned recompense, or the reward for my efforts and trials."
So now, and only now, the money is sitting in my pocket. It is a reward for my honesty, and therefore I believe that it is just and good that in a couple of hours, I will exchange it for a sandwich.
For the last few days I have been mainly concerned with the Budget in the UK. That was fun, but ultimately a damp squib.
Far more interesting was discovering a new button on my trousers. I've got two buttons and one of those little clip things whose name I can't remember. Extra security! Fantastic!
No more nightmares about my trousers falling down! No more lying awake at night worrying about my trousers being around my ankles! No more chance of the world seeing my novelty elephant underwear with the comedy trunk!
Somehow, I manage to have four credit cards in three different currencies, seven bank accounts in four different currencies and three building society accounts. This is generally a complex state of affairs to be in. My goal is to cut out one of these countries, going back to five bank accounts and one credit card. Is this just silly?
I have, in my hand as I type this, three coins from three different countries. They're all Euro. For those who don't know, the Euro coinage is identified by the following features.
Background filled in, moving right along.
So, as I say, Irish coins have a harp and the legend 'Eire 2002'. The Spanish coin has a picture of 'some chappie in a jacket and tie' who undoubtedly means something to the Spanish, and the caption 'Espana 2000'. Now this is slightly concerning, since the Euro wasn't around as coinage in 2000. The French have gone one better. Apart from the fact that they credit the artist for their coins in lettering that only ants can read, they don't have the name of the country on their coins. They have a woman's face, and a stylised insignia 'RF' in some font that looks like the woman on the coin is having a bad hair day. I guess that the RF stands for 'Republic de France' or quelquechose comme ca.
And the year on the French coin? 1999. A full three years before the coins entered circulation.
Next: the discovery of the first Euro, the Italian Euro dating back to 1948. Irish experts believe this may be a hoax...