Two articles have challenged my long-held beliefs about content and how information organisations, such as newspapers, will make money in the future.
I used to believe that people would continue to pay for information on- and offline, simply following their chosen publications and kept interested by some occasional online wizadry.
Then I read these two articles, and my thinking changed:
Both articles suggest ways in which publishers of newspapers and magazines
can make a unique offer online by presenting content in different ways, and using the web to gather and promote content. These are all good ideas: the sort I would have previously used to support my arguments. But I’m not sure the solution is as simple as these authors believe.
For a commercial organisation to profit out of selling news and information online, they need to fulfil all three of these objectives:
1. Content needs to be of the highest quality
This means exclusive. Think of The Daily Telegraph’s reports into MPs expenses last year.
This does not mean reworking information into a video or any other form of rich media, for the sake of it.
2. Content needs to be packaged in the way a reader wants it
Sure, they can read up-to-the-minute news and most of the world’s information for free online, somewhere, but that requires time and effort. Give them an app or subscription that is a custom editorial package, but with a margin for the publisher too.
3. Give the reader content they simply cannot find online
This links back to point one, but also includes archives, historical information, exclusive product deals and tools that help readers understand how a news story or report impacts their life.
These points are about much more than whether or not a publisher uses social media to promote their content, or how they present information online.
This is about publishers focusing on what they do best – creating and packaging information.
It’s fair to say that almost all national newspapers in the UK have some of this right, and a great many niche publishers are well on the road to success.
All could be considered publishers of quality content, but many, The Times included, are latching on to whatever technology solutions they perceive to be ‘the one’. And time is running out.