Steve Outing, one of the industry's most grounded analysts, has been rolling up his sleeves for a long time in trying to help the newspaper business transform first into a digital model and then into a digital model that works as a business.
His latest column for Editor & Publisher is more plaintive than most, in that it critiques the recent musings of U.S. newspaper executives in reversing course to charge online readers for content. Outing argues it won't work, the local media will lose relevance (socially and technologically), and the strategy will open the door for competitors.
But Outing isn't all into the free-to-be camp, either. He believes there are opportunities to drive revenue from readers --- he just doesn't see it happening through a firewall, not when so many others seem prepared to keep giving much of that same content away.
Instead he advocates partnering with advertisers to offer loyalty programs that permit readers not only to gain free access to content but other benefits. In other words, the carrot approach and not the stick. His biggest idea: Discounts for members from those same advertising partners, instead of generic coupons.