Why A Daily Beast Move Into Print Could Be Brilliant

Posted: October 28, 2010 in Convergence, Curation, Digital Media, Innovation, News, Newspapers

It may not seem like the most obvious move to make, but the internal discussions IAC is having over extending the Daily Beast into print could lead to a major step forward for the two-year old business that has made it’s mark on the Journalistic landscape but still needs to find the slow-to-build business model.

When starting a digital content business there are some things you can control — quality of content being the most important — but there are some things you can’t. The advertisers’ ability to understand and take advantage of a new medium falls in that second group.

The Beast has done exactly what it has had to do to build a new media brand, which is enormously difficult to do in today’s content-overload environment. Using a clever mix of 1) Original Content, which generally breaks new ground in either news or commentary, 2) Curation through it’s efforts to point readers the to very best coverage elsewhere on the topics that rule the day, 3) Community through it’s efforts to involve readers and bloggers in discussion and social media, and 4) Mobility through it’s a aggressive attitude toward new distribution platforms (though I really want a great IPad app from them) the Daily Beast is a textbook example of what a media company must become to succeed.

But because the Advertising world is behind in learning to adapt to these new media platforms, media companies need to be patient. But a few have wisely converged old media and new to finance the transition.

Politico is probably the best example. Besides its enormously popular web and email presence, most people outside of Washington, D.C. don’t even know that Politico launched a print edition when they started a few years back. That publication is printed daily when congress is in session and weekly when it isn’t (excellent targeting based on its readers’ needs) and circulated at the seat of political power through controlled circulation, meaning it’s given away to every power broker in town for free. There are about 30,000 copies distributed, and about 27,000 are given away (the rest are sold at newsstands).

In a reverse of the traditional way this works, in this case the well-known web product drives the interest in the print business. Stories are printed first online, because they can be, and later in print, which can under some circumstances be more convenient to a reader. Again, thinking of the reader’s habits over the publisher’s convenience or economics, which most certainly would lead to NOT printing a paper.

But even more important is the fact that the print edition is much more convenient to advertisers who know how to work with and LIKE a print product. The fact is, that even though there are millions more readers of the digital versions of Politico, until now, more advertising money came from the Print product!

The real irony is that the company concentrates its content creation in the web product because it’s truly real time, and it has built a sizable public reputation and impact primarily through its web product. Web stories come first, and the print product evolves from the web news operation.

The company has been able to generate up to 200 times more revenue per print reader than per web reader. That means that now the revenue from print is probably about equal to the revenue from the digital editions, but up until now, Print generated even more money than the web, despite the fact that its “circulation” was only 30,000 compared to millions on the web.

This isn’t because the print product is better, it’s because it’s easier for advertisers to buy. They understand it. They still don’t understand the web. This will change, but in the meantime Politico, a new media company, is financing it’s growth on the web by using good, old fashioned print.

The Daily Beast can learn something from that.

  1. And, although not a pure analogy, The Week is another great example of a thriving print publication from which TDB can get some great ideas.

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