Catching up on my RSS feeds after my holiday, I came across this post in Jeff Jarvis’s blog. One bullet point in particular struck me:

*** Some readers are not worth saving.** One newspaper killed its stock tables, saved $1 million, and lost 12 subs. That means it had been paying $83k/year to maintain those readers. In creating business plans, the net future value of readers should be calculated and maximized.

The publishing package we call a newspaper or magazine has long disguised the value of individual chunks of content within that package. The value of content has been left to the judgement of the editorial team, which may be why so many journalists are resistant to using metrics to determine what is or isn’t working on the web. Their judgement can be questioned and challenged by the brutal realities of audience reaction.

Now, if you’re looking to reduce costs on your print product, without affecting its value to the existing audience, and to free up time to devote to online development, chopping out a chunk of the magazine that you deem low value is a risky strategy. But is there room for a virtuous feedback cycle. If a chunk of content is getting very little traffic on the web, could that be an indication that its value to the audience is way lower than your judgement suggests?