This is the second part of my look at Mike Masnick’s Ten Good Reasons to Buy from the perspective of newspapers. If you missed the first part you should read that first.

“6. Tangibility: The granddad of scarcities: physical products.

News on paper is the core physical product at the moment, but that’s not going to be around forever. I suspect that some newspapers will transform into news magazines, since the market for glossy, full-colour formats with good photography and long-form journalism will likely outlive the market for cheap newsprint broadsheets. A nice physical product has always been important to magazines, and people are willing to pay for it; newspapers are designed to be as cheap and disposable as possible, which is why the internet renders them obsolete. This shift to a magazine format might actually make sense for some newspapers, if they can establish a role for themselves as what Devin Coldewey calls the delayed media.

All that being said, the money from selling the physical product has never carried the weight of newspapers or magazines, and it’s certainly not going to start now.

In terms of other physical products, I don’t see any reason why newspapers couldn't sell more merchandise, though I’m not sure how to go about it in a way that would bring in significant revenue. Lots of newspapers sell things like photo prints and keepsake copies, but so far it hasn’t proven to be that lucrative. On the other hand, those initiatives are often old and mechanical, and some may not have had fresh marketing treatment in years – who knows what they might be overlooking?

And if all else fails, the New York Times can just become an authorized Apple retailer.
   
“7. Time (saving or making): People will pay if you can save them time (or give them extra time in some manner).”

Time is especially valuable in business. As far as saving time goes, there might be a market for rapid fact-sheets and summarized reports that supplement the newspaper’s core editorial. Though difficult to sell by themselves, if combined with some level of exclusivity this could be a great revenue stream: customized reports, similar to the aggregator model I mentioned in part one. Some business publications do sell reports, but more often than not these are of the annual reference tome variety, a format that today is about as useful as a phone book. If there is money to be made, it will come from more rapid and direct business services.
   
“8. Convenience: If you make things more convenient, many people will buy, even if free options are available. That's one reason why iTunes has done so well.”

This is what a lot of people in the industry are banking on with the iPad and other tablets, but if they seriously believe the iTunes store will work for newspapers just like it does for music and movies, they are in for a rude awakening. Apple is selling music to people who are used to paying much more for CDs, and they still face stiff competition and had to remove DRM to satisfy their customers. Newspapers have an audience that is accustomed to getting the news for free, sharing it openly on social networks, blogging about it, linking to it and generally enjoying it without restriction. Moreover, while the digital alternatives to iTunes for music and movies are torrents or peer-to-peer programs, the alternatives to iTunes for newspapers will be countless news websites that are equally convenient and which stay free to soak up all the advertising revenue. Very few people, if any, are loyal to a newspaper the way legions of fans are loyal to a favourite recording artist. Convenience is still an important part of delivering the news, but that’s because readers already expect it.

It should be noted separately that the concept of Convenience also ties in with the custom business services I propose under Time and Exclusivity.

“9. Belonging: Never underestimate just how important a sense of belonging to a group or a tribe is – and being able to provide that in an authentic manner can be a true scarcity.”

A sense of belonging stems from the attention I discussed in part one. I talked a lot about comment sections, but those aren't the only form of audience engagement: Twitter is an extremely valuable tool, and I've often wondered if good old fashioned forums might have some potential on news websites.

But I think the real goldmine could be participatory journalism: there are a lot of citizens out there who want to get involved in the reporting process, and the concept is gaining steam, with YouTube and CNN getting on board among others. So why aren't there more people out there training citizen journalists? I bet newspapers, especially at the community level, would have an easy time finding groups and clubs that would pay for reporting workshops and seminars. Or they could try something like the PPF Group in the Czech Republic: opening hyperlocal newspaper-cafés where editorial staff will interact with the public (and partnering with Google in the process.)

And yes, I know that's an NYT link. It's ironic on two levels.
 
“10. Patronage: Definitely depends on the situation, but there are some people who just want to support an artist, no matter what. And that presents a scarcity.”

Out of curiosity I searched “newspaper patronage”, and I found this highly amusing editorial in an 1878 edition of a New Brunswick newspaper from the Google News archives (don't you just hate the way Google is destroying our culture?)
 
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“Many long and weary years have forced the conviction upon us that newspaper patronage is a word of many definitions, and that a great majority of mankind are either ignorant of the correct definition, or are dishonest in a strict Biblical sense of the word. Newspaper patronage is composed of as many colors as the rainbow, and is as changeable as a chameleon.”

Several comic caricatures of different types of newspaper patrons follow, and then:

“Now isn't newspaper patronage a curious thing? And in that great day when the gentleman in black gets his dues, as he surely will, how many of the patrons enumerated above will fall to his share? Now it will be seen that while certain kinds of patronage are the very life and existence of a newspaper, there are other kinds of patronage that are more destructive than deadly night shade.”

I suspect the same will prove true today.

 


Comments

01/29/2010 1:36am

Nice post, Marcus. Thank you! I especially agree with point 4 about exclusivity.

Another reason that is worth a mention is public participation. I know you talked about access and vibrant communities but they start with input from participants. That is why I thought the Nase Adresa launch of newscafes together with publications is so brilliant. It guarantees success because if you, as a reader, contribute ideas and insight, then the news media will instantly carry greater value for you (and advertisers).

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Marcus Carab
01/29/2010 7:09pm

Thanks - and I agree. I wanted to go more into the possibilities for participatory journalism at the community level, but this was already a really long post. I am going to work on a more in-depth writeup on the subject this weekend, most likely.

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01/25/2011 10:16pm

Living in the lap of luxury isn't bad except that you never know when luxury is going to stand

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01/27/2011 9:56pm

The great use of life is to spend it doing something that will outlast it.

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05/11/2012 5:14am

Your blog too good, I will soon come back again, to keep at it

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C- For man is man and master of his fate.

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