Friday, June 06, 2008

Diena in trouble?

Diena is one of the two largest Latvian language newspapers. Recently, many Diena subscribers have been getting letters offering free half-year subscriptions. Find a friend who does not subscribe to Diena and that friend gets the newspaper for half a year, free of charge.

To myself, this reminds of North America, where newspaper sales have been falling for the last 20 years, with people abandoning the newspapers for other sources of news. The emergence of the Internet as a news source is accelerating this trend. North American newspapers have gone to offering themselves nearly free of charge and relying on advertising for revenues. But this strategy has not helped.

Are we seeing a repeat of this story in Latvia? The number of people subscribing to newspapers in Latvia is falling rapidly. (In particular, Diena's subscriptions have fallen by 14.7% compared to last year.) Offering free half-year subscriptions is way more generous that any promotional action ever done by any Latvian newspaper. Unlike the other Latvian newspapers, Diena is owned by a Swedish media multinational who can afford generous promotional actions to keep the newspaper alive.

In other news, Diena's editor-in-chief, Sarmite Ēlerte, resigned today, after being with the newspaper for more than 18 years (16 years as the editor-in-chief). When resigning, Ēlerte claimed that she wants to have a break after presiding over several major changes in the newspaper recently.

My opinion is that too much of Diena reporting recently has felt like LETA/AP news stories that are available free of charge on news websites. To survive in the Internet age, newspapers need to distinguish themselves from the free content that is available online.

I've also been somewhat unhappy with positions taken by Diena, for essentially the same reasons that LETA's blogger Maris Zanders in his post. (It's a very eloquant post - he says what I think but better than I would say it myself.) But I don't think that their troubles with the number of subscribers is due to that.


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it's an interesting way to redact the information, specially if you aways use the same channel of information. The mass media needs a lot of changes to survive and most of the people knows that.

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