Reasons to hate the Daily Hampshire Gazette

daily hampshire gazette online logoI guess I shouldn’t hate them, but they’re so stupid in regards to their online presence that its necessary. Here are some good reasons you should hate the Northampton, Massachusetts based newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette (well, they don’t publish on Sundays, so right off the bat that’s stupid).

  1. They’re not very smart about the Web. In fact, they’re idiots. Somehow the publishers got it into their head that they are the Wall Street Journal, so they charge for most of their content. The content most people would like to link to on the Web–local stories–they keep behind a wall for paying customers only.
  2. Expanding upon the previous reason, here’s how they charge for their content: for an online only subscription (no paper copy) it will set you back $99 year; if you want a paper copy with online access that costs $147 a year (you can make lesser commitments). Is that fair? Well, you judge after seeing what the Wall Street Journal charges: $99 for both a paper copy and online access, with online access only costing $79. Who the hell is the Daily Hampshire Gazette?! I’ve read both papers. I know both papers. And Mr. Daily Hampshire Gazette, you’re no Wall Street Journal.
  3. They have a stupid URL. Get this: Make the URL either .com or .net, don’t include “net” within the address, it confuses people unnecessarily.

From his blog Digital Deliverance, Currently, 35 of the 1,452 U.S. daily newspapers charge for access to either all or a portion of their online content. Only three of the 35 have more than 100,000 weekday circulation.” Well, that makes me wonder, is the Daily Hampshire Gazette so much smarter than all those other newspapers? Ah, no.

I agree with most of Crosbie’s analysis, and I think he might be pointed in the right direction when it comes to the newspaper industry’s problems with online content: “No means of charging online for any slice or dice of the traditional printed newspaper content will work. The solution is to discern why the readership of printed editions has decline for more than 30 years and formulate what other type or package of content that will create demand from them online and in print.” Right now the Daily Hampshire Gazette is killing demand, not fostering it. Not only are they killing demand for the content they create, but they are becoming culturally irrelevant in the Pioneer Valley. Their online newspaper could be the destination spot for information concerning Hampshire and Franklin County, but it’s not.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette needs to create a cultural atmosphere in which its newspaper can’t be lived without; maybe like a for the area, or just to the south, the Springfield Republican’s Website (masslive is horrible too, but mostly for reasons of usability). Crosbie writes, “The key to the solution is that newspapers online should stop trying to provide just their traditional content as its package for print. Sending exactly the same content (edition) to everyone doesn’t satisfy everyone.” Exactly. Newspaper Websites need podcasts, blogs, forums, interactive community calendars, etc., plus the free content reproduced from the print edition.

How to make any money from such an endeavor? Here are some ideas, mostly not original, but one original idea.

  1. Advertising. If they become culturally relevant and the online audience increases, then they can charge more for advertising on the site. Right now they are driving people away from the site, decreasing potential income from advertising.
  2. Charge some money for the extra content creation, but not too much. Maybe $24 a year, with print subscribers getting a free ride. Increase the audience, then more income will be earned from online subscriber fees and advertising.
  3. And finally, if newspapers can make their Websites culturally relevant in a community, then I think they could charge local groups to host their Websites within the newspaper Website sphere. That could be a win-win situation for both the community group and newspaper. The types of groups that might be interested are local theater troups, non-profit agencies, etc.; I am thinking about groups that might garner interest from the larger community. Again, the goal is to create larger audiences that would then boost advertising rates and increase the subscriber base to both the online and print content.

So, do you know of any other ways the Daily Hampshire Gazette sucks? Or, how could they change their model and still survive?