Yesterday on Techdirt
, Mike Masnick posted a concise list of Ten Good Reasons to Buy
– one of two essential elements in the Connect with Fans + Reason to Buy strategy
that he has been observing and helping to define for some time. These reasons were brainstormed at Midem 2009, so they focus on the music business – but CwF+RtB has potential in all sorts of industries (Techdirt itself employs it), and so does this list.
So, with the New York Times going metered
and rejecting a proposed membership model that would have been much more CwF+RtBish
, I thought it might be worth looking at Mike’s list from the perspective of newspaper publishing. Though some of the ideas are more suited to musicians, it still qualifies as Ten Good Reasons to Buy
(It should be stated from the outset that I believe advertising will continue to be the primary source of revenue for newspapers, and that I think paywalls and meters are doomed to fail. See my post on Techdirt
and my extensive ramblings on good.is
for more on why. That being said, if newspapers can CwF+RtB in truly innovative ways, they might just turn the whole industry on its head. Stranger things have happened.)“1. Access: Access to the actual content creators is a real scarcity and one that can often be used to make money in ways that make fans quite happy.”
Sometimes newspapers do this backwards. When fundraisers and events and the like seek media sponsors, newspapers will request a hosting spot for one of their writers or editors as a condition
for the sponsorship. In other words, the content creators buy access to the fans.
This isn't always how it goes though – it depends on the event in question and the profile of the staff. In some cases the newspaper seeks sponsorship for their talent, and throws in event appearances and panel discussions to sweeten the deal. But in all cases, the main purpose of the whole shebang is to sell more subscriptions.
There might be lot more opportunities here. Why just panels and events? What about workshops, custom reports and analysis, even one-on-one attention? The thing to remember here is that the fans in question, or at least the most profitable ones, are business fans. Businesspeople read newspapers because the information and expertise has direct and immediate value to them. Connect finance writers with traders, legal writers with law firms, tech writers with software developers – with some creativity, there could be money to be made.
I can think of some ideas outside the business sphere too, but I have gone on for too long already and I'm only on Reason #1. “2. Attention: One of the most important scarcities in the digital age. Attention is incredibly scarce, and if you've got it, you can do a lot with it.”
This one is simple: active, vibrant comment sections where writers, columnists and editors regularly participate. Many newspapers see some of the trash that inevitably turns up in every comment section and go sour on the whole affair, allowing their columnists to shutter their comments when they should be requiring them (and paying them if necessary) to get involved. They will quickly realize that online communities become self-moderating once rational, intelligent debate is established and readers know they have the writers’ attention.
So far this isn't a reason to buy – at least not for the readers themselves. Advertisers are another story. An engaged community of readers is worth a lot more than the impressions they bring to a website – savvy advertisers will want their ideas, not just their eyes. See Techdirt's IT Innovation blog
for a prime example of this.“3. Authenticity: This one also includes ‘trust.
’ The ability to be authentic carries tremendous weight and is quite scarce at times. But if you can provide something that is authentic and valuable, it's often a very strong reason to buy.”
Authenticity is what everyone already touts as the strength of newspapers and the reason that people will consent to pay for their content. But newspapers are far from perfect, and in a world where transparency is becoming as important as trust their reticence about sources and methods is starting to seem old-fashioned. If newspapers continue to resist the linking culture, and continue to leave out details that could easily be added in appendices and footnotes online where space is unlimited, they risk being left behind. Moreover, if big names leak too much talent to more innovative startups, they could quickly lose authenticity (and surely someone will say they've jumped the shark.)
So I guess what I’m saying is: yes, without authenticity none of these other RtBs matter in the slightest – so don
’t go sacrificing it now. “4. Exclusivity: Many people value having something that very few (or perhaps no) others have.”
This is essentially what has allowed the WSJ paywall to succeed where so many others have failed. At the business level, and especially in finance, exclusive information has significant value, and the paywall created a certain sense of exclusivity. Ultimately the flimsiness of that exclusivity could be what brings it down – but what about something truly exclusive? Custom news aggregators
for businesses have been showing some success – what about exclusive news aggregators managed by a team of the newspaper's respected editors? That's just one idea of many.
Outside the business world this is a tougher nut to crack. Financial news gets more valuable with exclusivity, but most news is the opposite: a big portion of its value comes from sharing it. Nonetheless, there may be certain forms of exclusivity that avid readers will pay for. It will come down to individual newspapers knowing their strengths and their audiences, and seeing ways to offer them something they want. If anyone has any creative ideas, I'd love to hear them.“5. (New) Creation: The ability to create something new is a scarcity. This often confuses people, because a digital good once created is no longer scarce -- but the ability to create it is still very much a scarcity.”
Most newspapers understand that gathering information and creating content is what they do, so there's not much to say here. Newspapers that are drastically cutting back reporting staff and ramping up the wire content should remember that, while distributed reporting makes a lot of sense in many situations, every publication needs to continue creating something new that has value, or all is lost. Continue to Part Two...