A Million Dollar Question for the Albuquerque Journal

At the World Association of Newspaper Annual Congress in Dublin this week, the Albuquerque Journal was presented as an example of a successful paid-access newspaper Web site. Its editor Donn Friedman said that during the past two years the site has grown to 3,800 paid subscribers and its subscriber retention rate ranges between 56% and 65%. Because the site charges $8 per month, I calculate that it’s grossing about $364,800 per year, $204,288 to $237,120 of which is stable year-to-year. Does that sound good?

Not to me. Borrell Associates‘ April 2003 report, What Newspaper Web Sites Earn, found that, among newspapers with 100,000 to 200,000 daily print circulation, the average free-access newspaper site annually generated $12.76 in revenues per print circulation. Because the Albuquerque Journal‘s daily print circulation is around 110,000, this mean it should earn around $1.4 million annually if it were a free-access site. That’s a million dollar improvement. Even if the Albuquerque Journal could earned half that much as a free-access site, it would be doing better than it is now as a paid-access site.

[Update, 6 November 2003: According to an article written by Donn Friedman in Online Journalism Review, the paid subscribership figure is “almost 2,000” and the subscription revenues are “more than $100,000 annually”. See our new commentary about this article.]