Copies have leaked of the major report on newspapers from the American Press Institute for last week's gathering of publishers in Chicago to discuss new economic models.
Publishers and other industry officials met to discuss ideas to strengthen the economic outlook for the newspaper business. In particular it is clear from the API document that a user-pay-for-content model is contemplated --- not as a solution, but as one of many concepts to put the industry on potentially more solid footing.
The pay-for-content model has many detractors, but it's evident from the document that the debate within the industry is moving in that direction.
The principles the document lays out include:
1. Establish a fair price for content and charge through micropayments, subscriptions or a hybrid model.
2. Take on piracy and what it considers unfair use.
3. Negotiate a better rate from the search engines.
4. Create an industry-wide news platform and take advantage of technology.
5. Focus on consumers, not on advertisers.
The document is a substantial exercise and does hold out salvation if the industry pursues the concepts. Rather, the five-point plan is a step forward.
It concludes with an extensive checklist and many of them are assertive about the need for quality journalism.
For those without the time to read the document, here is one of the stronger snippets of questions to ask:
"VALUATE THE WORTH OF CONTENT OBJECTIVELY. Ask the right questions:
I VALUE: Is there enough value in original content to be monetized?
I VOLUME: With downsized newsrooms, is there enough local or unique content to com-
mand a fee?
I BREADTH: Is there the breadth of content to simultaneously support a paid premium
content model, while maintaining enough free pages to harvest the advertising bene-
fits of the open model?
I SCALE: Is there enough scale to make paid content work? How many visitors come to
your Web site more than three times a week?
I ABUNDANCE: There are thousands of sources of information on the Internet, and a lot
of it is free. What makes your content distinctive, valuable and unique?
I UNIQUENESS: Is original content deep enough, comprehensive enough, expert enough,
or complex enough to command a premium price?"