Building revenue on e-Readers remains a challenge

Newspaper Association of America | Advancing Newspaper Media for the 21st Century

The Newspaper Association of America featured 2010 Reynolds Fellow Sean Reily in its Spring 2010 publication. Here are excerpts from NAA’s interview:

While companies like Amazon, Plastic Logic, Barnes & Noble and Sony work on improving the reading experience and functionality of their e-reader devices, publishers are wondering when (or whether) putting their content on those devices will be profitable.


Nevertheless, newspaper executives are rushing to sign contracts with e-reader hardware and software companies and their reason is clear: They want their newspaper’s content to be available wherever the audience wants to get it, according to conversations with people at the Washington Post, Detroit Media Partnership, Scripps and Cox Newspapers. This includes not only the popular Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader, but also challengers such as Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Spring Design’s Alex, and the long-awaited Skiff e-reader.


For most newspapers, e-reader subscription figures are relatively small. These small numbers illustrate the current problem facing newspapers: “We sell [advertising] on cost per thousand,” said Derek Robinson, director of corporate strategy and business development at Cox Media Group. “If you are talking about such a small group of people it’s just a tougher sell.”


Sean Reily, a fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, said: “It’s a really difficult hurdle for newspapers to deal with because you are cutting up a pie that, as of yet, isn’t big enough to cut up.” In his role at the Los Angeles Times, Reily has seen the Tribune Company’s Kindle subscription figures. He says that even in the early years, numbers were surprisingly strong.


“No one really believed people would pay for a subscription to a newspaper on a Kindle when you can go online and find all that content for free,” said Reily, who is also director of editorial business and planning at The Los Angeles Times. “But more people bought subscriptions on a Kindle than even the publishers would have guessed.”

Now, with the launch of Apple’s iPad, Reily predicts that consumer awareness of e-reader devices will soar.


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