Eric Spitz says its time for print media "to stop chasing the digital ghost” (The Wall Street Journal, 8/19/13). Eric, along with Aaron Kushner, owns Freedom Communications, "which includes the Orange County Register, the nation’s 14th-largest newspaper." Neither Aaron nor Eric has any experience in the newspaper business, but they agree that the "newspaper industry has erected two idols that must be smashed. The first is the notion that digital information must be free. The second is that the newspaper business can only be saved by digital solutions."
As Eric explains: "I don’t know many industries that can survive pricing their core product at zero." Conversely, he notes that "only two major newspapers … have not seen significant declines in their subscriber bases in the past decade: The Wall Street Journal and Groupa Reforma, the largest newspaper in Mexico." The Journal "has never given away its digital content" and Groupa Reforma has had a paywall in place since 2002. The answer, says Eric, is not free content but rather quality, differentiated content that is "essential to the community it serves."
Eric also questions print’s fixation on digital, observing: "Most companies that sell digital ads are struggling mightily because these ads don’t work as well as those in other media formats," adding, "Newspaper advertising remains the most efficient means of reaching a local audience, so why has this industry ceded so much ground?" By standing its ground, he says Freedom Communications has "seen year-over-year increases in both subscription revenue and in advertising revenue." He suggests that other newspapers might find "that the business isn’t as broken as everyone thinks."