On Facebook and Apple entering the content wars

There is an interesting and topical article in today’s Financial Time about how Facebook and Apple might become the saviors of the news publishing world. (http://on.ft.com/1R5eonE – registration is required).

There are many interesting things the article touches on, but one of them caught my eye given what I wrote about previously. It quotes high numbers of paying digital subscribers to the NY Times and WSJ and then compares them to the numbers of the Tribune group, which owns several titles (including Los Angeles Times and Miami Herald). The collective paying base there is less than 10% of the NYT.

When you spend a decade gutting your news rooms and making the AP your main content contributor, is it surprising that nobody wants to pay for it? The case of wanting the cake and having too is at full display.

It’s a sad state of affairs when publishers are willing to cede their content to the likes of Facebook and Apple in the hopes that these companies will be able to better monetize it on sheer scale. It is interesting that NYT, FT and a few other remaining heavyweights are participating. The idea that they can better scale through 3rd party platforms runs a bit contrary to the content battle they have waged with Google and others.

We’ll see what happens but I remain sceptical about their ability to significantly grow their reader base.