The times are indeed changing. The great thing about change is that it is inevitable, incontrovertible and most importantly of all, essential.
So the season of change is upon the publishing industry, and the quarter most affected by this renewed change is that of the purveyors of news:
“When Web users wanted to carve up CDs and pay by the song, the music industry initially balked. But now that Netizens want the same thing from newspapers, magazines, and research reports, Web publishers are only too happy to oblige.”
A choice free of restriction and full of options is the place we’re going.
And the music industry is the template of this new à la carte mentality, with the internet as the infrastructure through which this embarrassment of options is delivered.
I must confess, to the likes of me, this kind of thing has been a long time in coming:
“Breaking up the pieces opens up a whole new audience — think of a college student writing a term paper or an independent consultant working on a project. ‘It’s becoming a way, not even to buy articles, but facts and pieces. The chunks are getting smaller and smaller,’ says Chuck Richard, vice-president and lead analyst of Outsell, a research firm focusing on Web publishing. ‘It’s not going to be here this year or next year, but we do see it coming, and this is a step in that direction.’
It may be scary to some, but smart publishers realize they don’t have much choice. The fact is, readers are changing their news-gathering habits. People who get their news online are increasingly getting it in chunks, rather than reading one paper or magazine cover-to-cover.”
The main source of news still remains the printed editions. But in time, these hard-format news sources will either diminish or themselves become subject to the choice people demand.
But how? How could a newspaper produce myriad editions of a newspaper to cater to each different taste in news?
As an example, anyone who has seen the Stephen Spielberg film, Minority Report may remember a scene on the train where a guy reading a newspaper gets an update of the latest news and sees our protagonist, Chief John Anderton; played by Tom Cruise, as a man on the run, wanted by the police.
Might sound like the start of a joke, but what do you get if you cross wireless technology, micro-payment e-commerce and electronic paper?
And the answer is far from funny, but it’s got a great punch line: your news wherever and whenever you like.
But we have a battle on our hands, and to be perfectly honest, this battle can only be a good thing because I find myself suddenly reminded that war is the mother of all invention.
But there are still real hurdles to overcome:
“To make this work smoothly, publishers will need to figure out how much consumers are willing to pay for a single story, table, or chart. Unlike the 99-cent-per-song charge that the music industry settled on, publishing has no real pricing model.”
Payment is only the beginning, and on the grand scheme of things, it is merely an exercise in negotiations and little else.
And this is where the Business Week article leaves off. My question is: how will the publishers and news providers add value to their offerings?
So what more are these guys willing to offer to make the likes of you and me buy our news from them?
I foresee a number of things, first and foremost, as a supplier of news and a seasoned veteran of the web, any news publisher knows all there is to know about ‘stickiness’; the practice of creating compelling content to keep a visitor from going elsewhere.
But in an age of extreme specificity; what with geographically specific travel reports and route planning, regionally specific weather, demographically specific news content and current affairs and the incumbent advertisements and sponsorships, terms like stickiness will no longer have relevance because they will become a given.
So once you’ve read one news story, the logical next step is to offer them more similar and / or related news stories to keep them engaged and to keep those payments coming through.
Secondly, entertainment has value all its own. By doing deals with games developers — especially those familiar with developing for small devices like mobile phones — deals with movie studios to provide the latest movie trailers, deals with the music labels to provide special offers like pre-release previews of music, you can really see where all of this is going.
And best of all, not a single thing you read, watch or listen will not be what you didn’t ask for.
Choice is a wonderful thing, but change is always good news…