DISCLAIMER: I’ve no direct connections with Inquirer.net or the Philippine Daily Inquirer and these opinions are based on nothing more than an outsider’s point of view. Feel free to read on while taking it with a grain of salt. Would be good if you could comment on it too.
Interesting news about how Inquirer.net is folding and will be absorbed by its parent the Philippine Daily Inquirer (read here). It might seem surprising that an organization built on top of new media would be packed up and returned to its old media parent which supposedly belongs to a sector which is dying itself (Example. search for more in Google). On the other hand, when I look at how Inquirer.net is designed, it seems as though it’s built on the same business model as its offline counterpart. Sure it comes with the usual Web 2.0 bells and whistles such as an RSS feed, tag clouds, and spaces to add comments here and there. But in general, it still feels a lot like an online carbon copy of the print version. I don’t know about you, but if that’s the case it doesn’t really offer me anything new and if I wasn’t much of a fan of the printed version, then what makes you think I’d suddenly be a big fan of the online version? Because it’s free? Not good enough. I like the free stuff from the Internet not because they’re free but because they have an innate value to me in the first place.
Furthermore, from what I see as an outsider, it also appears that their revenue model is a lot like the paper version’s: Ads peppered across the site (they have other paid services but I doubt if it makes them enough money). Might be a good enough means in a booming economy, but when the tides change (and drastically in the case of the past few months), advertising as a revenue stream isn’t so reliable unless you can provide advertisers with an excellent set of tools that allow them to gauge and even directly manage the effectiveness of their campaigns (think Google AdWords). Their media kit tells me that they charge by ad impressions and that is it. They don’t appear to provide tools that actually allow advertisers to gauge how many leads their ads generated. The best that the media kit can do is cite a survey by AC Nielsen. This is where Google AdWords excels and where traditional media companies fail to this day.
Taking these two things into consideration, it’s not so surprising therefore that Inquirer.net is folding: There really was no significant innovation other than on the cost side (going on the Internet potentially allowed them to increase their readership without incurring the costs associated with the old media such as ink, paper, and physical distribution). Cutting cost is nice, but you can only do so much with it. This development should serve as an example to the many other newspapers in the country who are thinking about taking advantage of the Internet.