Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

GOOG's Chief Economist Hal Varian Has No Solution For Newspapers

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 9, 2010

The Federal Trade Commission held a second session today on the future of the newspaper industry and Hal Varian, Google's chief economist made a presentation.

His talk, "Newspaper Economics, Online and Offline," was full of very interesting numbers, related to traffic, revenue, type of news stories that people read, how much time they spend reading news online, and lots more.

With his access to detailed traffic stats from Google News plus detailed numbers on ad revenues, etc, Mr Varian is in an excellent position to know what works, and what doesn't work in online media. He has access to more information than any single newspaper publisher and thus can provide important insights into the newspaper business.

What did Mr Varian advise newspapers to do? "Experiment, experiment, experiment," reports Martin Langeveld, at Nieman Journalism Lab.

If that's the best Mr Varian can come up with, that's very bad news for newspapers.

Here is the most dismal of a range of dismal stats that he presented to the FCC:

- online ad revenue is substantially less than 5% of newspaper revenues.

Here is his slide deck:

And here is a PearlTree that represents a collection of web pages on this topic:

 New Media Business Models 

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