This happened a couple weeks ago, but the Chicago Tribune ran a story about USA Today testing an online “e-Edition” with select college campuses (via Sustainable Journalism). Students, faculty and staff at three colleges (Penn State, Indiana and Missouri) will receive a free “e-Edition” of the USA Today’s daily paper, which is identical to the print version but also includes interactive multimedia.
A spokeswoman told the Tribune “[t]he newspaper is testing whether students will respond positively to the e-Edition format.”
I’m sure students will respond positively — well, nobody will respond negatively about getting free stuff — because they’re getting a national paper at no cost through e-mail. If they don’t want it, they don’t have to sign up for it.
I wonder, then, what USA Today plans to do with this after they collect their data. Will they look to offer this to all students across the country? Will they offer it at a smaller price compared to the print edition? Like I brought up in my post about the GQ iPhone app and what Jim Gaines writes in this column, publishing costs are much cheaper when stuff is put online, as opposed to print. There is no need to pay for printing, paper and ink when the content is online.
So it looks like USA Today is halfway there, they (will) found (find) an audience — and a young one at that — that will read, watch and interact with their online content. Now they just have to get them to pay for it and find businesses that will want to advertise with them. And considering the cost of traditional media, it shouldn’t be too long before they find the right number for new media.