The economics of moving from print to online

This is a must read article below, published on Monday Note, September 29, 2008 and edited by Frédéric Filloux. It addresses the structures and costs involved in a print and online newspaper business.


Let’s kill a myth. The dream of a compact newsroom, able to output a high-intensity general news website doesn’t fly. Numbers simply don’t add up. And here is why.

First, the cost structure of a daily. In a typical operation, the biggest costs are industrial ones: around 25%-35% for paper and printing; another 30%-40% for distribution; around 18-25% for editorial; the remaining 10-15% are for administrative and marketing expenditures. It varies from country to country but we can safely assert most of the costs — at least 60% — are industrial in nature. Evidently, that part disappears when going online.

Now let’s compare three numbers:

a) the cost of an online newspaper,

b) the audience needed to absorb costs

c) the audience of the biggest website

Journalists make up most of the costs of a pure digital newsroom. As an example, assume the “loaded” (salary, benefits, expenses, overhead) cost of one journalist is about 60,000 € per year. If the objective is to provide a general news site, the starting point for a comparison is the print press. As an high end instance, a newsroom such as the New York Times’ still counts 1400 journalists, paper and digital operations included (they tend to merge). The Los Angeles Times now has 720 after the deep cuts demanded by its new owner (10 years ago, the headcount was 1300). The Washington Post has a staff of 600.

For the rest of the article see:

The economics of moving from print to online: lose one hundred, get back eight | Monday Note.

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2 Responses

  1. Hey, thanks. I like your blog – good luck with your novel.

  2. Very cool article. Thanks for pointing it out!

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