Hoping to ride a wave of interest in new portable electronic readers, the McClatchy Co. is introducing slimmed-down digital editions of five newspapers tailored for viewing on Amazon's Kindle: The Sacramento Bee, Charlotte Observer, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Anchorage Daily News and Raleigh's News & Observer.
All these Kindle products will be available by the middle of this month. The initial run will soon be followed by several other big McClatchy properties, including The Miami Herald.
The Kindle editions -- which don't include all the content of the newspapers' daily print editions -- will be transmitted to subscribers' devices each morning.
To get readers hooked, McClatchy is offering a two-week free trial period for each newspaper's Kindle edition, after which subscribers will have to pay $6.99 per month. The digital editions will not include advertising -- at least initially.
A growing number of newspaper and magazine publishers are hurrying to create digital editions of their print products for distribution to Kindle and competing devices produced by Sony and other electronics manufacturers. While there's no question rhat the portable readers are enjoying a surge in popularity, it remains to be seen whether digital editions can become a significant source of revenue for newspaper publishers -- especially if they eschew advertising.
For example, a year-long subscription to The Sacramento Bee's print edition costs $182, versus $83.88 for a full year's subscription to the Kindle edition. And while digital circulation may be more profitable, since it eliminates costs associated with printing and distribution, circulation revenues -- whatever their source -- have historically been a relatively small part of newspapers' bottom line.
In the third quarter, the McClatchy Co.'s total circulation revenues came to just over $69 million, or about 20% of the total $347 million for the quarter; meanwhile, $266 million, or just over 76%, came from advertising (mostly print).