Finally! An analyst with his head around the opportunities for newspapers in the digital age. This Biz Week article is a welcome read:
People want information, and newspapers have been successfully fulfilling this demand for more than a century. They provide compelling content, but we think it isn't being leveraged to its full extent. Many newspapers are giving away all of their online content for free, and we think greater associated discipline is probably appropriate. Charging for access to premium content and archives of stories, photos, and even front pages is a possibility.
We think new distribution formats, such as spoken-word audio, have potential. In addition, new types of content are being created in the Web world. Blogs and podcasts are a good way to reach a younger audience and can generate advertising revenues, in our view. Real-time chats with writers and other special events could be made exclusively available online.
I'm not an expert on the newspaper business, but I think its companies have more assets and opportunities than people realize. S&P expects newspaper concerns to continue acquiring Net companies, and many are taking steps like those listed above. However, we also believe newspapers have brands, customers, and content that could be used more effectively to drive more online traffic and revenues. Additionally, in our view, new types of content, services, and distribution, specific to the Internet, constitute a notable opportunity.