It’s pretty obvious now that if news publishers want to survive this rough period they’re going to have to be smart, clever and brave. In particular they’re going to look beyond their traditional markets to new ventures that draw on existing skills but tap into new income streams.
Two things that all news organisations have are writing skills and an archive of news and information. Why not combine these two and produce a series of ebooks on issues close to readers’ hearts?
The Guardian is doing exactly that with its Guardian Shorts series. The ebooks, on topics as diverse as Dr Who and the Murdoch phone hacking saga, cost between £1.99 and £3.99 and are available for the Kindle or through the iTunes store. Each book is an edited collection of Guardian coverage of a specific topic. The Phone Hacking ebook, for example, collects Guardian coverage of the issues that goes all the way back to 2005.
It’s a genius idea. The bulk of the writing is already done and, even with editing work, the books ought to be relatively easy to produce.
Clearly ebook sales aren’t going to make up entirely for ongoing newspaper losses but it is part of a strategy that builds on news organisation strengths and adds a new revenue stream with relatively little additional work. It also extends the organisational brand into new arenas which can’t be all bad.
Or, as John Paton says, these new avenues may not replace the lost dollars but perhaps its time for news organisations to start “stacking the dimes“.