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The Dangers of Going Online-Only

pi_grabb.jpgNewspapers, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to the Christian Science Monitor, and magazines such as Maxim‘s UK edition, are going online-only to save money. But will this actually achieve its goal?

Not really, according to a study performed by City University researchers. They looked at Finnish paper Taloussanomat, which went online-only in December, 2007. While the move decreased costs by 50 percent, revenue fell more than 75 percent and online readership dropped 22 percent. (The Seattle P-I followed suit, seeing a drop of 20 percent in its first week.)

In our eyes, the readership fall off is more concerning than the revenue drop. No one has really figured out a way to make money on Web sites yet, but presumably they will and revenues will increase. Not to print levels, of course, but there will be money to be made by newspaper sites online.

The readership number, however, shows that having a print product does serve as a promotional vehicle and drive people to a site. At the very least, seeing Taloussanomat on the street or in a coffee shop raises brand awareness. In an Internet world where the same news can be found on an infinite number of Web sites, losing that street presence could hurt more than anyone realizes.

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