Finally, editors should embrace, not shun, user- generated content. The most compelling sources of information about the June 2009 election protests in Iran were sites that combined professional reporting with Twitter feeds, eyewitness accounts and videos, and commentary taken from blogs, edited so that a reader could, within a few minutes, get a rich mix of insights. Gannett publications, such as the Tallahassee Democrat, have begun to acquire highly trafficked local sites, such as Tally Moms, and “reverse publish” their bloggers in the daily newspaper. This model can be highly effective at reducing the cost of content, even as it enhances audience engagement.
4. Innovate with New Products and Pricing
The emergence of the iPhone and Kindle has triggered a new round of discussion about how print players should reinvigorate their business models. Although it is not clear what impact these new platforms will ultimately have on the print industry, they are clearly aimed at two key unmet needs online: convenience and more flexible pricing.
It is clear that when a significant share of consumers carry smart phones or other Web-enabled devices, they will expect new and more convenient delivery and formatting of content. Print players have long recognized this, with newspapers being among the early adopters of wireless application protocol (WAP) sites, which encode content for mobile phone distribution. Today, print players continue to experiment with new digital editions as well as premium offerings delivered as e-newsletters, alert services, and downloadable content. They are also exploring new ways to leverage digital distribution — for example, by providing new print-on-demand options that provide alternative formatting and customization options, as well as easy-to-use software to install in the home or office.
Here again, innovation will be reinforced by unbundling the content offering and super-serving targeted interest areas. Building out these interest areas means not just providing the same content in new formats, but also using applications that work with online, mobile, and other new devices to increase consumers’ willingness to pay for content or to register for it. The marriage of content and applications is at the heart of digital innovation, seen in applications such as search, social media, video players, recommendation engines, personalization, comparison shopping, photo sharing, and personal finance tools.
Among these areas of innovation, digital video is increasingly important — in large part because of advertiser preference for video as part of brand-building investments. Video also drives significant user engagement online, as seen by the rapid growth of CNNMoney.com and Forbes.com, both of which have heavily embraced it. Consumer willingness to pay for online video content, however, has yet to be proven. CNN, for example, was not able to implement a pay model for its video online, and current experiments by players like Time Warner and Comcast that provide online access to video content from cable networks are still limited to existing, paying cable subscribers. But it is clear that digital video is highly effective at increasing audience engagement. And marketers are looking to video as a key part of their private-label media efforts. Players like Walgreens in health, Nike in sports, and BMW in automotive use digital video to build branded experiences and communities of interest. Holding on to important marketers like these will require print players to either build or partner for video capabilities.
These kinds of innovations will, in turn, open the door to innovative pricing models. Experimenting with unbundling and packaging content is crucial to driving incremental revenues beyond online advertising and new marketing solutions. Kindle and iPhone users’ willingness to pay suggests that the right mix of content and applications will drive revenue opportunities for print players as well. New content and applications, built around interest areas, can coexist with free offerings if the new features bring additional convenience and value. Functionality that allows, for example, an interactive dialogue about an article with friends, hyperlinking to related articles, or downloading additional exclusive content or tools might be provided only to paid customers. In this way, print players can both unbundle their content offerings to capture some willingness to pay in connection with specific interest areas and “up-sell” consumers to additional content and applications.