wise elephant, making it happen

Get it un-stuck, make it sexy

By Jason Moriber • Mar 16th, 2009 • Category: Strategy & Planning

Ideas for print-media to make new $ from their online sites, now.

Beyond the ongoing debate over what will eventually happen to newspapers I feel there needs to be some quick pragmatic thinking on what can be done “now.” The quickest changes can be made to print-media’s online sites.

Show me the static content for free. I’ll pay you for the active content.

It’s hard to stomach paying for something after it’s been free. Newspapers flipping the pay-wall switch on their online news sites are bound to annoy and alienate their audiences, yet there are current options to explore without having to invent any new technology or be concerned about future platforms. Future-forward thinking is important, but what can be accomplished in the short term can be just as valuable as seeking to discover the “next thing.”

Print-media has a huge inventory of data: articles, stats, images, etc. I call this “stuck content” as the shelf life of newly posted news or articles falls off a cliff the second day, sometimes by 98%. The problem lies in how to make the “stuck content” valuable for a longer period of time. Sure, I can dig through the archives, but the current search functionalities I’ve seen are far from sexy. I know the sites have gobs of available data; key-word searches aren’t enough.

So, how to un-stick the stuck content and make it active? Offer me something you can’t get anywhere else but online – my behavior and my preferences. Don’t sell my data to marketers, sell it to me! Mix the available content and data with my behavior, let me set a few preferences, and you have a paid model.

Here are five ideas towards creating active content:

1. Statistics: we all love stats, especially when it’s about our own behavior. Show me lots of stats about me; let me compare them to everyone else

2. Suggestion engine: use the stats to offer suggestions, allow me to discover articles through new paths, show me new ways to package the content

3. Categorization: be creative with how articles are linked to each other, align content into new verticals

4. Share the wealth: make it super easy for me to share links and embed branded content on my own site

5. Automation: allow me to create my own concierge that retrieves data for me, even when I’m not on the site

Show me the static content for free. Charge me for active content and the ability to un-stick the content in ways that make sense for me. Would I pay $10/month? Absolutely. $20? $50? Continually make the active content sexier, offer me new ways to access this data and I’ll be a long-term paying customer.

Jason Moriber is a veteran product/project/marketing manager, underground artist/musician, and online community developer, Jason expertly builds/produces/manages clients' projects, programs, and campaigns. Follow me on twitter http://twitter.com/jelefant
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2 Responses »

  1. Very interesting ideas. I debate, though, whether personalization is enough to build a subscription base or loyalty. The idea of 1to1 marketing has been around since Don Peppers in 1991 and never seems to make it as a real business model; Netflix and Amazon try and still fall far short.

    The problem is the switching costs to find relevant information are now so low, that as soon as NYT charges – I’ll fly somewhere else, where the same quality content can be had for free.

    What I might pay for though is access to the minds of the people writing the stories. Imagine spending $20 a month to be able to converse with the top technology writers at NYT, or perhaps a club of similar top readers interested in the topic. But even that is a tough sell given the ease of setting up other social networks.

    The truth is that the content we all love so dear has become a commodity. There is only so much demand; the supply has become almost infinite; as the quantity of supply moves farther and farther to the right on a classic supply-and-demand curve, the price of the good (content) must fall. I suggest that there have always been millions of brilliant minds in the human population out of the billions on the planet; journalism in the past limited our access to these minds, so we perceived that NYT and other top papers had the “few” people needed worth spending to see. But now that I can find you, or anyone else I deem smart or wise or reporting real news that I find useful, I can flow to this huge real supply of intelligence. The profits disappear as the friction between content supply and demand are gone.

    As far as the solution? The only one I can see is for the current knowledge empires like NYT to become nonprofits, lock in their brand, and admit that advertising or subscription revenues will no longer be enough for them to survive. Knowledge, like data, has always wanted to be free.

  2. Let’s divide the print-media arena between Newspapers (papers) and Magazines and for this debate focus on the papers. Also let’s put me and you into the small “early adopter” category of the larger audience.

    In general papers have to “split the sausage.” The term, I believe, was coined by Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records fame describing how the “old school” music industry made their $; they signed the artists, owned the studios, owned the presses, controlled distribution; they owned every piece of the sausage, it was one big sausage. The newspaper sausage needs to be sliced up, and repackaged.

    It is my belief that papers can start quickly with personalization (one slice), to gain revenues from what they already possess without having to be too inventive.

    The paper has to offer other, multiple, types of access to each of their different audiences and not treat them as one lump mass. Examples:
    - They could create an “inner circle” package with access to beat writers.
    - The print version could be modified to one “news-stand” and one shorter, less expensive “bulletin” (maybe singly sponsored?).
    - They could open up their home-page to allow me to add my favorite blogger streams (Alltop anyone?)

    More structurally…the paper could be split into non-profit and for-profit halves, one for the journalism, the other for content development.


    I still argue that stating “Knowledge, like data, has always wanted to be free.” is a belief system. I can say the same thing for food. Food has always been free yet we LEARN to pay for it as there are mechanisms (education) and laws to support the industry. I feel the bigger issue is that the belief system needs to be altered, much like the English learned to take tea in the afternoon, a total construct to support an industry.

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