@pc2010: There Are New Revenue Opportunities Today — The Problem Is Finding Them

The discussion started by ContentNext’s Ernie Sander and FT.com’s Rob Grimshaw at paidContent 2010 continued with a panel of other digital media execs from traditional media companies — along with Google (NSDQ: GOOG) product manager Josh Cohen.

Flavor of the month: CNN.com’s KC Estenson: “There are new revenue opportunities today that we didn’t see five years ago. It’s just matter of finding them, experimenting. We balance market conditions, consumer protection and privacy issues, which platforms to go on and when. It’s enough to make you not want to get out of bed in the morning. At CNN.com, we’ve tried to focus on what we do well. With mobile, we didn’t want to be first on iPhone or Android. We wanted to get it right. Not rushing to the flavor of the month takes discipline.”

Fear and hope: Estenson took the opportunity to plug CNN’s $1.99 iPhone app. “On heavy news days, more people will pay for the $1.99 CNN iPhone app. Most business models come from a place of fear, not a place of hope. But the bottom line is, if you build something worth paying for, the business will be there.” He noted that yesterday’s Texas plane crash likely drove consumers to the iTunes store, and then encouraged audience members missing the Tiger Woods public apology to go download the app.

A warning on paywalls: Naturally, Google’s Cohen pointed out the dangers of paywalls. “There are a number of different ways to charge for certain segments of your coverage, while still making sure your content is discoverable. I think that if you do increasingly rely on paywalls, you’re increasingly going to rely on making sure users can find it.”

Will pay for apps, not web access: Hearst’s Lincoln Millstein: “A friend recently confessed, ‘I will not pay for anything on the web, but it’s amazing how many apps I’ll buy. That’s very telling. We can’t carry the same assumptions from one media platform to another. I think publishers giving away their content on the iPhone, the way they made it available for free on the PC, was a mistake.”

Kill the print version?: Millstein also pointed to the decision to turn the Seattle Post-Intelligencer into a web-only pub, allowing the pub to go from 170 reporters to about 10 people. “It’s amazing what you can do with a small amount [of people].” When Sander asked if he would close down all Hearst’s newspapers, Millstein hesitated a bit, saying, “We don’t have to shut down profitable enterprises.”

Distribution matters: Millstein, again: “If we sold out all our websites, it would still not produce enough dollars to make up what we get in print. Whenever there’s a new distribution channel, whether Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), Facebook or Twitter, we’re excited. But we don’t have enough of our own inventory to scale it. I can’t wait for Twitter. But we’re bullish on the ad model and we have great local ad sales.” But not all distribution is created equal, as Millstein said “The Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) deal has not been good for us.”

You’re welcome, publishers: Cohen: “Google provides free marketing to pubs, delivering 4 billion clicks to news outlets per month. Do the math as to what that means in pageviews.”

— Sander to Cohen: “What about sharing revenues with publishers on Google News?”

— Cohen: “That’s what all the discussion is about, isn’t it?”

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