With the major papers realising that hard copy is soon to go the way of the Dodo (the bird that is, not the telco), there’s been so much heated talk around the idea of user-pays, subscription-based news.
I agree with the idea that the major players will lose millions if they try and move their whole sites to a user-pays model … most people won’t pay to read The Age or the Sydney Morning Herald (don’t even get me started on the Herald).
What would people pay for in terms of the news? I think the perfect example would be a “stock membership” – for a certain price on a weekly or daily basis you get updates not only of where your stocks are, but also analysis on how they are doing, what the market is doing and recommendations of other stocks you may be interested in based on what you already own. It’s not only the news you’re paying for, but the value-add of information from industry experts that is up to date and relevant to your specific situation.
Yes, there are people who are doing this and doing it successfully (but the major newspapers have clout and access to resources that many of these sites don’t have).
This strategy would also improve their advertising sales – the internet has changed the face of advertising. No longer is it a “broad spectrum, hope you get some good sales and, hey, at the least you’ll get some brand recognition” sales pitch. Now, it’s all about ROI, tracking, cost-per-click and cost-per-conversion – everything is measurable.
A much better sales pitch? How about the Facebook model: “We have 10,000 subscribers who pay $50/month to get information on the stock exchange. Each of these subscribers has filled out an information form, which means you can target your advertisement to any particular age group, geographical region, marital status or income.”
It’s a fallacy that people won’t pay for information. I know one guy who is selling a 20 page document for US$100 – it’s simply a word document, broken into 15 different categories that has business links he farmed from Google in areas such as CRMs, Business Magazines and online payment systems – people will pay for the aggregation of information that is available for free if it makes their lives easier.
It’s all about figuring out what people want and giving it to them in a format that they can use.
That format thing is such a big deal!
People who know me, know that I hate e-books.
“But Leela!” I hear you cry, “Surely that’s your industry? E-books are information products.”
Sure they are – and poor ones at that. Ninety-five percent of people who create e-books do so because it’s the easiest and cheapest way for them to get their information out. They pay no regard to the fact that most people hate e-books. They love the immediacy of the receipt of information, but as a format it leaves a lot to be desired.
And this is where the challenge will be for traditional media going forward. They’ve gotten used to feeding us what they want and us being at their mercy (as any Sci-Fi geek will tell you, for years we were stuffed around by the networks with their changing of times of our favourite shows with no notice – and then they had the audacity to be shocked when the moment we could get our shows online we [meaning other people, of course, not me] did.) But that’s no longer the case.
The truly anarchical nature of the internet (despite attempts to control it) precludes the concept of the captive audience. Now, it’s a buyers’ market – and we have so very many options.
It’s going to take a huge cultural and thought-pattern shift for traditional media outlets to find their way through the quagmire of new media. If they can do it, the benefits will astound them. If they can’t, they’re doomed to follow the aforementioned Dodo into the stuff of slightly ludicrous legend.
Leela Cosgrove is Managing Director of Business Writers Anonymous, focused on sales, marketing and business development. She is also a firewalker, has a black-belt in Tae Kwon Do, a penchant for tattoos, and enjoys bands such as Rammstein, Li Bach, Marilyn Manson, Pennywise and Bad Religion.