Saturday, December 31, 2011
End of an era
Most of my adult life I have subscribed to a daily newspaper. Today this ends. I have stopped my subscription to Helsinging Sanomat, Finland's largest daily. It has been a slow death, at the end I had it coming only on week-ends.
The iPad has been the catalyst. I prefer to read on my iPad, and what I read is on-line stuff, mainly using Flipboard. It is my universal destination for reading media. Most days starts in Flipboard. For me the death of the newspaper took 20 months. The key reason is its poor user interface. It commands too much real-estate on the table. It is noisy and it smells bad.
As I have saw this slow death coming, I started pondering on the content. In the past few months, the ratio of interesting to nonsense was really striking. Sometimes I only found 2-3 intersting stories, endless amount of small irrelevant ads and increasingly yesterday's news.
Does this mean end of media, death of content? I think not. On the contrary we are living in an era with abundance of content. What we have is a distribution and power control struggle. We also have a massive business model problem. Consumers are not used to pay for content, and in the digital screen real-estate is scarse.
The distribution is analogue, we live in a digital era. The user interface is analogue, we live in a digital era. With the emergence of tablets, and abundace of LCDs we have more opportunities than ever before.
I think following 6 things need to happen:
1. Think aggregation. Use your media brand reputation as an aggregator. Aggregate anything that can be aggregated, smaller brands, bloggers, soccer mums and experts. As media you are in the timeshare business. Flipboard is a guide guide if you lack imagination.
2. Think local head global tail. People live locally and care about the what is close. Make local the hero content, a fallen tree on the neighbours house is a bigger story than a storm on the riviera. This require creation of an open source media operating system, into which people can publish. Mash-up a Instapaper with Wordpress
3. Celebrate the good journalist. Focus on quality, let journalist produce what they excel in, telling stories, rather than fill text around ads. Reward journalist based on readership, sort of performance based journalism. This is hard as requires some kind of disruption. Look at GigaOm and their network of contributors.
4. Enable micropayments. I am a believer in that people will pay for content. If users en mass has paid for ringtones, buying TV episodes, I do think they will pay for good stories. Journalist produce much more content than editors allow to be published, let the fans read and see the backstories. With micropayments this could be monetised.
5. Price for volume, price content in the digital world with a volume, I think the pricing of media on the iPad does not encourage uptake. A newspaper should not cost more than €.99, once there is usage advertisers will come and someone will invent new forms of monetisation. Before you have usrs, you have nothing.
6. Provide a personal library. Supplying a cloudbased digital library and clipbook would over time create an incredibly powerful lock-in. I would not mind subscribing to a media library of all the stories I have read. Look at Evernote, once one crosses a certain amount of content one is hooked.
I know this are all tall orders to achive, but eventually the force of disruption will act. Newspapers are dead, long live News.