I’ve had a few emails and conversations over the past week post Fairfax and News admitting to the existence of the broader digital world. I haven’t had the time or inclination to put together a full article, there’s plenty of more qualified people doing that. But I thought it worth posting a few different thoughts from a few different emails and conversations.
Have the New York Times got it right finally with their Flipboard integration?
I’m not sure how it took so long for this to happen. Forward-thinking publications like the NYT and FT and the Guardian realised years ago that they’re in the content game, not the publishing game. The best thing a news organisation can do right now is abandon every aspect of their business that focuses on distribution (which they’re terrible at), and focus on the one thing they’re good at – creating content using words, pictures and video that people want to read and watch, and that set the agenda for the community, country, or world.
It’s more than a year since I wrote about this on the re-release of the Fairfax app, and I didn’t think it was a terribly groundbreaking idea at the time. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long.
Is there any way paywalls can work? Or are they a band-aid on the bullethole?
It’s easy to write off paywalls, and most analysis is correct in doing so. But that analysis only holds up when you look at publishers in isolation as a business. Almost every single business that is growing today is doing so through meta diversification. Supermarkets are banks. Search engines are mobile phone manufacturers. And in the communications world everyone is going for the triple-play of mobile, ISP and TV provider.
News is in an amazing position here with their 25% stake in Foxtel. Almost a third of Australian homes have a Foxtel box in them. And that means almost a third of Australian’s are already consuming content behind a paywall – but it’s TV. A News/Telstra/Foxtel triple play for subscription content could work, and could be implemented fast and soon.
Will the rate at which consumers accept they have to pay for online news content move more rapidly now?
I don’t think you’ll find people in Australia “accepting” that they need to pay for content. Ever. Especially now you have a generation of people who have grown up with free content entering the workforce/consumerforce.
This question seems to come from the same line of thinking that has led Fairfax and News to be in the position they are now in – they think they’re facing competition, when they’re really facing obsolescence.
Consumers will pay for content if it can be delivered to them in a seamless, interactive, and useful way. The content cannot be monetised, the method of delivery can. One of the biggest oversights of the past couple weeks is the critical need to decouple the content creators from the content distributors when looking at future business models. The journalist has no connection to the printing press any more.
Why are digital dollars worth less than print?
The audience are (for the most part) fully aware of the basic economics of physical distribution. They understand that the reason their newspaper is 20% ads, and the reason they have to pay a buck for it is because that physical item had to be created and transported into their hands.
From the beginning of newspapers the content has not been the valuable element in the transaction. It was replicated across every other version of the newspaper. So the value that we placed on the transaction was the ability to have our copy of that content.
With digital that model was flattened. Digital allows copies to be made for no cost – and the legacy attitude of “I pay for the physicalness of this content” is one that is hard to shift. Contrast this to books, where the value proposition has always been about owning the content. The acknowledgement in the transaction was that you were paying for the words that the writer had spent time crafting, not for the physical copy of the book. It’s a small difference, but it’s one of the key reasons that the newspaper world is falling apart, and the book world is not.