The Gwinnett Daily Post (GDP) is a newspaper providing local news, sports, weather and much more to Gwinnett County. According to Marketplace Gwinnett, the GDP, originally called The Lawrenceville Home Weekly, was created back in 1970. It is now owned by Southern Community Newspapers Incorporated (SCNI) and is offered in print Wednesday through Sunday as well as Gwinnett Daily Post online.
The GDP, just like many other newspapers, has had a tough time adapting to the digital revolution. News is transitioning onto the internet and this means newspapers have to rethink their traditional business model.
J.K. Murphy, Vice President of Content for SCNI, has been at the GDP for 16 years and offers a little perspective on how the newspaper business model needs to change. Murphy feels it’s a very challenging time but also a very exciting time.
“For the first time ever the people working in the newspaper industry have to reinvent their product,” Murphy said. “We’ve never had to reinvent the product before. We’ve been putting ink on paper for three hundred years and its worked pretty well. In fact, it’s difficult to name another industry that has lasted three hundred years where the product has gone through such little fundamental change.”
It’s certain that digital is the way things are progressing, and at the GDP the online traffic, especially mobile, is quickly growing. The GDP’s audience is larger than ever, so what’s the problem.
The business model for newspapers has always been based on two sources of revenue: subscriptions and advertising. Unfortunately, readers don’t need a subscription to view the GDP website, and the online content right is 100% free.
“The newspaper industry made their mistake, in my opinion, back in the early nineties when this internet thing was catching on,” Murphy said. “In a rush to be on the Internet everyone put his or her content up for free. Now, you’re seeing the reversal of that. I would say 2013 was the big year for the pay wall because a lot of newspapers put one up, but one of the issues is that it was free for so long people might not want to pay for it.”
To convince people to pay for the online content it’s important for newspapers to offer specific, unique content. Murphy says the GDP is unique because they offer local news that people can’t find anywhere else.
“There’s no reason for me to pay for a President Obama story because I can find that anywhere. If I want to know what happened locally, perhaps I’d be willing to pay for it,” Murphy said.
The GDP is looking at putting up a pay wall on their website in hopes of gaining back some of the lost subscription revenue, but they have to be careful not to lose any online traffic. Putting up a sudden strict pay wall would cause traffic to nose dive and the GDP would lose their current online advertising revenue, so Murphy says they’ll start by implementing a very liberal pay wall. Customers will subscribe for around 30 articles a month.
The Internet has not only challenged newspapers but also given the GDP a lot of advantages to make their news worth paying for.
“The Internet gives us many advantages we didn’t use to have. We are not limited by space, so we can post longer, more detailed stories,” Murphy said. “We can do video now and use a lot of it. We can post school closings immediately.”
Only time will tell if newspapers will figure out how to bring in the revenue needed to stay in business and survive the digital revolution, but it is certain that news will survive: it may just look a little different.