A reader of my latest Editor & Publisher Online column (about intelligently redesigning print editions to please older print loyalists and not go after younger people) asked:
“As newspaper companies redefine their strategies, will home delivery be a thing of the past? Will it be a premium service or only available through online downloads? Can newspapers make up ‘insert’ revenues without home delivery?”
Given enough time, I do think that home delivery of the printed daily newspaper will become more of a luxury item than it’s been historically, with a higher fee charged than for alternative digital forms of the newspaper (full digital replica editions for reading on a PC or other large-screen device, and appropriately formatted digital editions for smaller devices like Amazon’s Kindle).
That is, as the number of print subscribers to daily newspapers dwindles over the coming years, it will cost more per subscriber to cover delivery expenses. Such price increases will convince even more of remaining print subscribers to cancel and switch to paid digital versions, or simply stop paying and rely on free newspaper websites, e-mail delivery, RSS feeds, and/or mobile delivery. (The latter may be free, as is generally the case now, of perhaps in the future a charged service if combined with personalization features.)
For national papers, I expect to see more of them go the way of the Christian Science Monitor, which next year will cease its print edition except for a single weekend edition — becoming foremost a digital news publisher with a secondary and limited print product. Don’t expect to see USA Today disappear from airport newsstands or no longer appear outside your hotel room in the morning anytime soon, though.
As for ad inserts, that’s still a huge business for local newspapers which will be around for a while longer. (Though I do think that if you look out far enough, those advertisers will begin to shift more of their inserts money to digital.) So we’ll likely see publishers continue to distribute inserts to non-subscribers of the printed newspaper along with a teaser edition delivered to homes once a week.