What really happened that caused traditional media to shrink so much over the past decade – and why are so many still struggling to come back?
That’s the subject of this presentation, which I’ve given several times over the past few years.
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Posted in Business, Future of media
Tags: advertising B2B Business business to business content e-media economy facebook journalism magazines marketing media newspaper paid content social media
As digital readers improve the online reading experience, people seem to be getting more comfortable with the idea of paying for online content. With that progress, what publishers need now is an effective and easy way to accept payment for content – whether they want to offer content on a metered, per-use or subscription basis.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire has, perhaps broken a barrier with the easiest access to online magazine subscriptions I’ve seen. That’s the strength of the Fire: it’s an incredibly effective portal for buying content – and, frankly, anything else Amazon has to offer. The Fire’s downsides are:
Size: The 7-inch screen is simply too small for enjoyable magazine or newspaper reading. Even the magnification feature doesn’t go far enough, and it intereferes with smooth nagivation on the page and from one page to the next.
Weight: Holding the fire is a little bit like holding a flat, shiny, somewhat sexy brick. It’s a load – though it might provide interesting synergy with a bodybuilding magazine.
More-than-occasional glitchiness: The touch-screen doesn’t always respond well; sometimes it seems too sensitive and others not sensitive enough. For magazine and newspaper viewing, that makes page scrolls and page turns an unpleasant guessing game.
Limited media offerings: All of the other issues will likely be mitigated in subsequent versions of the Fire. But where Amazon’s strength has always been the scope of available content, periodical choices seem limited. Perhaps I’m wrong on that; perhaps the available choice reflect the current range of publications that have dedicated themselves to the future of digital content consumption. But if Amazon wants to emerge as the leading content delivery platform, than it’s going to need to move away from teh curated approach that it takes with apps and seems to be taking with periodicals.
So what other options do magazine publishers have if they don’t want to be limited by (or captive to) Amazon’s subscription model?
Here’s an interesting new approach: TinyPass.com is a startup paywall service that offers the kind of flexibility publishers need. Payment can be accepted through any means – from PayPal to Amazon to Google Wallet to a dedicated merchant account. And content can be delivered in any distribution model: paywall, metered, pay-per-use, etc. According to PaidContent, it even accommodates varied content models – such as the ability to split revenue with contributors.
TinyPass is a young copy and I’ve not done enough due diligence to predict its success. But it certainly represents the kind of flexibile functionality that the publishing world needs if its growth curve for selling digital content is going to continue.
Tags: content e-media iPad magazines newspaper paid content
A small B2B media company contacted me to talk about enhancing revenue by adding some new digital products to its portfolio. The company already offers a digital edition, business directory, email newsletters, web-seminars and a number of other digital B2B staples. Non-monetized but just as important, it has a reasonable Twitter following, a large group on LinkedIn and a Facebook page that is basically just a placeholder.
I’m sure there are more products the company could implement. It doesn’t have any mobile offerings to speak of, and its website represents first-generation internet thinking – a source of information but not of engagement and interaction. With a little bit of study and a few billable hours I could have made some recommendations.
Here’s what I told them instead: The opportunity to increase revenue by adding digital products has largely passed, and simply adding new products will probably hurt the business by:
In essence, trying to invigorate the company by adding more digital products is just going to lead to more fatigue for everyone – and at best provide only incremental revenue gains.
The real opportunity – and the only real option – is to use digital tools to increase the organization’s footprint and prominence.
Here’s the argument:
In B2B media, ad revenue and unit yields have been stagnant for a decade, and there is no reason to think that’s going to change for the better. As hard costs continue to rise, print circulations have been on a forced retreat. Publications that have maintained controlled circulation levels are doing so by cutting in other areas or – more likely – by winning market share and profits from other, lesser competitors. Neither is sustainable.
Given that it’s not economical to add print readers, the real value of a digital strategy is to present the brand to new people – either by expanding outside the magazine’s traditional market (taking a step upstream, toward the advertisers’ suppliers, for example) or its traditional geography (i.e. international).
That doesn’t mean simply launching a digital or iPad edition. These are passive – cool media in Marshall McLuhan’s lexicon.
But extended audiences demand hot media. They need to be actively engaged; they need learn for themselves how a media brand is valuable to them. Engagement at that level means creating a different kind of relationship based on interaction with community, expansiveness of content, and flexibility in the way content is applied. These are the strengths of digital tools – when those tools are skillfully and strategically applied.
In the real world, it probably means a pretty significant website overhaul and, more significantly, redeployment of staff and restructuring of sales compensation.
Editors have to stop thinking in terms transferring knowledge from experts to the readers – instead becoming moment-to-moment conduits for peer-to-peer communication. Less like network news anchors and more like a highly specialized cruise directors.
Sales strategy has to evolve too. It’s less about products and more about platform – how the media brand provides a fluid and organic conduit between the advertiser and the market.
These are not small changes to make, and this is not a short-term project. But it represents the difference between relevance, growth and prosperity on one hand; and retreat into a niche position or extinction on the other.
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Posted in Future of media
Tags: advertising B2B business to business content e-media magazines paid content value proposition
A direct quote from the 9 a.m. ‘news’ segment of NBC’s Today Show:
“Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for since the announced engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton: the day and location of their wedding. So mark your calendars for April 29…”
As if NBC isn’t going to remind us.
Posted in Bob's Happygood Funny Blog, Future of media
Tags: journalism media paid content short stuff
Marketing guru and all-around deep thinker offers his vision for magazine publishing: the Micro Magazine.
The ideal distribution and monetization method for such a product? Apps of course.
Posted in Blogroll, Future of media
Tags: magazines paid content short stuff
For those – and there are many – who say the iPad won’t save publishing, here is evidence that the Little Tablet that Could might be more powerful than they expected.
ABC, the leading auditor of consumer and paid periodical circulation, has built a service that allows media to count readership across multiple electronic platforms: apps, e-readers and mobile browsers.
Ordinarily slower than honey from the fridge, the audit bureau’s speed to provide meaningful data across the fast-emerging new-media platforms speaks to the urgency of its customers. The data means media will be able to sell advertising for new online formats almost as fast as they develop. That alone will hasten the already hurried development of unique offerings for smart phones, mobile websites and the iPad (as well as the fleet of act-alike products that others will inevitably produce).
It’s important because it’s a stay of execution for the advertising-based business model on which virtually all media rely but which has so far resisted the digital transition.
Why give the iPad credit for this? Since its introduction just a month ago, the conversation about mobile media has changed dramatically – as have reader habits. Powered by the app, consumers are suddenly willing to buy subscriptions for online content, Google has been declared a declining power in big media’s pursuit of traffic, and at least one of the major audit bureaus has been shaken to innovate. All because iPad provides a different user experience than any previous device.
I’m not ready to declare that the iPad is going to save publishing-as-we-know-it. But I’m pretty sure it will be right in the middle of publishing-as-it-comes-to-be.
Tags: advertising content e-media magazines newspaper paid content
At the beginning of January, I wrote a hopeful post about the coming introduction of what we now know to be the Apple iPad.
On re-reading it, I’m glad to say I was appropriately not giddy. I simply said the new device, if it met expectations, could provide a strong enough platform that media would use it to begin their evolution toward a digital-only era, which is essentially inevitable. (Essentially, because I don’t believe print will go away completely. But it will become a niche solution with fewer players and more limited application).
As the print media watch their business model melt down, they desperately need something that allows them to translate their work into an electronic format. Computer screens and e-zine platforms don’t do it. Hand-held devices don’t do it.
Will the iPad? Maybe. The device looks pretty cool. Myself, I’d be excited to use what is essentially a magazine-sized iPod Touch as a reading device. It’s far more compelling to me than the limited e-book readers like the Kindle. (Some of my most gadget-oriented acquaintances are already dumping their book-reading devices – not in anticipation of the iPad, but because they don’t want to use them anymore.)
Most entertaining to me has been watching the different media report on the iPad’s big reveal. The print media have been agog and amazed. They have, if anything, let their financial needs show from under their skirts. The print media is so giddy about the device that it has probably overplayed its importance.
My favorite lead, from the L.A. Times referred to the iPad as “the most anticipated tablet since Moses’.”
But broadcast reports tell me those folks don’t get it. They are announcing the iPad as if it’s just another gadget. One local pretty face actually said, “I don’t understand what the fuss is about. It seems like as soon as you get one gadget they come out with another that you have to buy.”
Oh, she gets it all right. Just like the average Joe, who neither cares nor understands that an entire industry is pinning its hopes on this thing.
It gives me a bit of a chill, because I’d like to see some real innovation by magazine publishers and newspaper publishers to utilize the full capabilities of a tablet like the iPad. I’d like to see something that brings a traditional magazine to a new level that’s closer to Facebook than 60 Minutes. But most people will just look at the price tag and ask, “Do I really need this?”
Absent some really good media products, I’m not really sure what the iPad is best for; it’s a really expensive e-book reader and not a replacement for a laptop computer. It’s a new category altogether and it demands new content. Or it won’t sell.
So, you print media types, get to work – and fast. If you don’t, the iPad could be deemed a failure before you ever get your chance. (Not that I’m betting against Apple.)
Which raises another concern: If the iPad costs $600-$1,000, and monthly service costs another $30, how much is a subscription to Newsweek, People, Vanity Fair or Playboy going to cost?
Will people pay for a reader and monthly service knowing that what they’ve really done is spent all that money just to enable them to pay for more content? And what about all that other media we all buy: cable TV, smart phones, Netflix, Satellite radio…
How much media will people pay for.
Thinking about it, as curious as I am about the iPad, I’m about tapped out. Unless it can replace something else I’m already paying for, I can’t afford to lead the print-consuming audience to its new online Shangri-La.
For what it’s worth, here are some other takes on the iPad:
MediaPost: Even Apple can’t save newspapers
Techcrunch: 10 reasons why iPad will put Kindle out of business
Newsosaur: Can iPad save media? Skeptics weigh in
With Apple tablet, print hope for a new payday
iPad is most important for businesses not named Apple
Apple’s tablet could change the face of publishing
Tags: content iPad magazines newspaper paid content
In an attempt to increase advertising revenue, media organizations have pretty much declared that they’ll put ads anywhere.
Last year, the New York Times began putting ads on the front page – which raised eyebrows among media purists, but was a non-event when it comes to changing the reader experience one way or the other.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is in-text advertising (click for an example) – contextual links embedded in news articles online, which unleash a pop-up ad when the cursor simply passes over them. The pop-up appears exactly where you happen to be reading, and it doesn’t go away until you click on the ad or on the little X in the top-right corner.
It’s the online equivalent of a squirting flower on the lapel. Or a kick in the groin.
A number of companies offer this, though Vibrant Media seems to be the market leader at dragging advertisers into this very bad place.
I don’t know why websites or advertisers want anything to do with something that is certain to tick off the very people they’re trying to woo.
In any case, somewhere in the middle of the range between the Times’ front page ads and Vibrant Media’s stick in the eye is a new effort from Hearst and Format Dynamics, to impose ads on printouts of online articles.
This isn’t as disruptive as in-text advertising; it doesn’t literally get in your way of seeing the very words you’re trying to read. But consumers won’t say ‘thank you’ when printing out a one-page article requires burning through an extra two or three pages of color ink just for the ads.
OK, I can hear the publishers’ response: People don’t pay for the content and we have to monetize it somehow.
I get that. But let’s face a few realities:
Eventually, consumers will come to understand that content costs money.
Smart publishers are building revenue from their readers now. They aren’t trying to figure out ways to nurse a few extra shekels out of a declining line of business at the expense of alienating the readers on which their very futures depend.
Tags: advertising content e-media paid content
I call them e-book people; they’re publishing types who see a big future for media distribution – not just books, but also magazines and newspapers – through e-readers and tablet devices.
They include folks I know pretty well, like David Nussbaum of F+W Media (the consumer-special-interest giant that touches people who are into anything from creative writing to geneology to knitting or woodworking), to folks I know only by reputation, like Alan Meckler of WebMediaBrands (events and online communities surrounding media and technology).
They’ve been building excitement for months, maybe longer, over the prospect that Apple will eventually come out with a category-smashing tablet that puts Amazon’s market-leading Kindle e-reader to pasture.
Based on the recent press (like this, from the NJ Star Ledger), it appears as if it’s finally about to happen. And not only should the folks behind the Kindle and other first-generation e-readers be scared, but newspaper and magazine executives should rejoice. This is the vehicle that could finally direct them down a clear path toward the future.
The problem with current e-readers is that they’re good for text and not much else. They don’t handle graphics well, so they aren’t useful for technical books or anything with color pictures. E-readers, as they currently exist, are basically good for best-selling books. They’re a single-application device, and the next-generation unit – whether it comes from Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Google or anyone else – will do to them what the Palm Pilot did for the Apple Newton.
Which is the long way of getting to the real point: When the tablet PCs start to come out, newspapers and magazines will have a great opportunity to try and reinvigorate their existing business model, or to build on the more obvious business model that they simply have to make work.
The old business model is advertising, and the high-touch interactivity that a tablet PC could offer advertisers might be enough to entice them back to the traditional media marketplace. I’m sure it eventually will help to flatten out the downward trend for print advertising revenue. But I don’t believe it will ever halt the juggernuat of advertisers who seek to aggregate their own audiences and produce their own content – which is what the new age of marketing is all about.
But the new business model has more hope. That’s the one in which people actually pay for the content they use. It’s the only obvious next place for media to go. But up to now, there hasn’t been a vehicle that presents print media better than the existing hard-copy formats of magazines and newspapers. Those are so expensive to produce that, without growing advertiser support, there has been no hope of shifting their full cost to consumers.
Can the tablet change that? Not in a hurry. But here’s what it CAN do:
It can give publishers a medium that is powerful enough for them to create something new – something that extends beyond the boundaries of the newspapers and magazines they already produce.
This goes back to the old Marshall McLuhan quote, “The medium is the message.” Up to now, solutions like e-zine interfaces have simply been an attempt to push old messages into a new medium. The mismatch has been underwhelming at best.
But the tablet can create a new message – a new set of boundaries for old print media companies to create electronic-only products that generate real excitement among consumers. The kind of excitement people pay for.
For example, check out this proof-of-concept video from Sports Illustrated:
If products like this really come around, I’d pay three or four times what I do now for a magazine subscription. Would that cover the cost of generating the content? It’s a question for the market to handle. But if it also arrested the decline in advertising revenue, there might actually be a business in this.
This isn’t a short-term solution. Tablet prices will start out too high for any publication to convert a meaningful number of subscribers. And ad revenue won’t follow until that changes.
And it will take years of education before consumers understand why tablet-based publications are the future of media. Just consider some of the comments that people left after viewing SI’s video:
There are probably many kids here that think this is wonderful but i am not sure if they have the capacity to think! What will most likely happen is that the selling price (books, magazines, etc) will not reflect the savings and? they will be able to control what you have on your device and how long you have it for. This is not good for the consumer. It is not a good idea that content providers decide how you have access to information (be they Apple Microsoft or Google).
Do I need another electronic product to add to my cumbersome life?
How? many other things you have to carry around with you 24/7 to keep you up-to-date?
I don’t see the point of this. Nobody is going to buy this thing just to read e-magazines. Why not just load the …damn website? Seems like people are desperate to save print-based magazines. Make this smaller, like the Kindle, and strip away all this excess so it reads books. Then I’ll consider.
OK, so people don’t get it yet. And they aren’t ready to pay for a digital subscription. But as more and more magazines disappear, and more innovators build great content for tablets, the correct path for media will begin to unfold.
Tags: advertising e-media magazines newspaper paid content
According to MediaBuyerPlanner.com, Esquire (Hearst) and GQ (Conde Nast) magazines are now being offered in an iPhone edition. You can download them for $2.99 per issue.
This small step forward isn’t going to offset revenue losses from advertsing. Nor is it going to revolutionize the way people read magazines.
But it may evolutionize the way we read magazines and newspapers. It’s a small step but a great step.
GQ and Esquire are not alone. Time and BusinessWeek, among many others, have offered mobile websites – accessed through free iPhone and Blackberry apps. But the effort by Hearst and Conde Nast to monetize the use of smart phones is a step forward that the media need to take.
Is the effort any good? I don’t know. I’m a Blackberry user, and these brands aren’t available in a Blackberry version. So I can’t answer whether they’re worth $2.99 an issue. I don’t know how faithfully the print content is reproduced, or if it’s all re-jiggered for a better smart-phone experience than either magazine would seem to offer in its print edition.
But I’m anxious to give any such mobile publishing effort a test run. While people are wringing their hands over consumers’ unwillingness to pay for content, the research is starting to reverse. More and more surveys are showing the people have warmed up to the idea of paying for content.
I think the real problem is that when people need to know what that content would be. If you ask, for instance, “Would you read a newspaper on your smart phone?” most people are going to think of the newspaper they know, reduced to the size of a playing card. Who could be satisfied with that?
But I’m hoping GQ and Esquire will show us how their content can be repackaged and repurposed – providing one experience in print and another experience – different but just as fulfilling – on the smallest screen.
That’s where the next generation of media success will be found.
Tags: content e-media magazines paid content value proposition
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