There’s lots of chat both serious and anecdotal about the answer to national press’s struggle to provide online alternatives? Isn’t the obvious answer to all this simple – The BBC’s website?

Look at this link ( and the picture is clear and suggests why would you go anywhere else for free news?

About one in every 16 adults around the world uses BBC News. It’s free and by and large it is trusted. Oh and there aren’t any ads interrupting your visit. Great for you as a “reader” but rubbish for advertisers.

Over 400 million visits in the UK, in January alone – how can “online newspapers” compete with that?

For me it re-opens the old (or relatively new) and wider discussion of how national press will battle with the continuing pressure that online and social has to offer? From a news and editorial as well as a revenue perspective.

Michael Wolff’s intriguing report in USA Today in January sends out a huge message to Press owners. It’s naive to think that press readers will simply migrate to the online alternative because it is there. I’m not going to cover the “engagement” argument in detail but reading a newspaper requires a different frame of mind to navigating a website.

Press is an established model albeit one that has diminishing returns yet the ad revenue ratio still has its place – it also generates a cover price which people are prepared to pay. General “online newspapers” cannot sustain a paywall because consumers want (and more importantly get) their news free of charge online. And as we can see there is an established and recognised brand on the scene where you can get all the news you want. Even if online papers tear down their paywalls there has to be a very good reason why you would be faithful to an online version of a paper that you like to read.

When I choose to I read the Times, I hold it, I fold it and I choose to pick it up, sit quietly in a chair and soak up what it has to offer – reading a physical newspaper is relaxing to me. I don’t read the Times online – why? Because I get all the news from the BBC website – it’s all there and completely up to date.

For me publishers either have to invest in the printed paper and nurture existing and new readers (and advertisers) or become an online “paper” with unique content which you can’t get anywhere else and build a loyal following online – look at The FT for that model.

But simply selling the idea that your online daily newspaper will impact on readers and generate ad revenue just like it’s offline version is flawed.