Why the Print Industry Should Subsidize the Kindle

Amazon Device Could Be White Knight for Newspapers and Magazines

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Newspaper and magazine execs have long regretted making their crown jewels -- quality content -- available for free. No one has really been able to make a go of digital subscriptions.

As the tangible media era ends, the media formerly known as print can't count on advertising alone to survive. They need to find healthy subscription revenues. Thankfully, an unusual white knight has emerged: the Amazon Kindle.

The Kindle 2.0's debut was a watershed moment for print media. It offers one last solid shot to build a robust digital-subscription businesses -- if newspapers and magazines move quickly.

Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP-director of insights at Edelman Digital.
Like the iPod before it, the Kindle is a critical emerging device that actually encourages consumers to pay for content. When Apple launched the iTunes Music Store, some were skeptical that people would shell out cash for music they could snag for free from file-sharing networks. They did. The same was true when Apple, and later others, rolled out movies. Today millions rent or buy movies online.

The Kindle offers a similar opportunity in a much larger market: text. This one is tougher to monetize. Even though magazine and newspaper content is widely available for free, I believe that people will pay to receive their favorites on their Kindles or their Kindle-enabled phones.

The media needs to meet them there now, while they can. One unsolicited suggestion: Offset part of the cost of the Kindle to get them into the hands of loyal readers with content preloaded. Imagine if Time Warner gave readers $100 off a Kindle that came with a year of digital subscriptions to Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune. I bet a lot of people would jump in and stay for years.

The Kindle, like the iPod, overcomes the hurdle required to get people to pay for content. The secret sauce is easy and near-instantaneous information delivery.

Newspapers and magazines must jump in now. Subsidize Kindles. Create value-added content for the device. Or even partner with advertisers in creative ways to offer new content. This is the last shot at getting people to shell out for digital subscriptions. The Kindle is print's white knight.

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