I assist a major firm identify the fundamentals of the media of the future, facilitate a culture of innovation and accelerate the reinvention of their business model. For those of you less familiar with the challenges of this industry in the US let me tell you what they are in this digital age:
So let’s come back to my conversation with my fellow traveler at the airport. He’s a best selling author, considered as a thought-leader in his field of expertise. To respect his privacy, I’ll keep his name and further details about his profession confidential.
He tells me that he has not spent a dollar on a newspaper or a magazine for months, probably years!
Overall, he prefers e-newsletters over online subscriptions because of time constraints – with a subscription he has to wait for the entire digital edition to download on his screen, but with an e-newsletter is only one click away from the information. Time is of essence for him and much more important than the marginal information he can only have via electronic subscriptions or paper versions.
Besides, he flies internationally very regularly and enjoys access to more magazines and newspapers – both US and international – than he could wish for.
He tells me that he prefers electronic information because he can save articles and send them easily to his clients or his assistant. Simply put, he does not need to buy any general information – a pretty gloomy statement for traditional media owners!
But further into the conversation, I find out that he pays $150 to receive the McKinsey Quarterly.For $150 he can get a yearly online subscription with Newsweek and receive in the mail GQ, Car and Driver, and FT everyday!
So, where’s the solution?
As always, the solution will not come from a financial equation alone – there is no imagination in 2+2 = 4 – yet most traditional business thinking comes back to : “what’s the business model?” meaning “how do we make money?”
The appropriate questions are: “how do i bring value to my readers?” and “what is my reader trying to achieve?”
Let’s go back to the roots. What does “media” mean? It means “in the middle” – media stands between people and information and facilitates news and information sharing.
If we come back to my conversation it’s not difficult to see how to bring value to John, i.e to stand between John and a world of information in a way that’s relevant and significant! He needs:
The media would help him thrive if they could deliver a customized version of their online magazine everyday with information that speaks to him, his lifestyle and saves
Two other essential complements would bring real added value to John’s experience. One, is advertising: what if John could switch on and off access to customized advertising on his page? We let John decide when he wants to see an ad – tough, you’ll say! … how do you sell this to an advertiser?
Well actually, this is what Google does basically – we’re simply pushing it one step further. John has control of his exposure to advertising in the same way as people decide if/when they want to sit in the sun. It would mean a pay-per-click type of revenue or even pay-per-lead. But John’s perception of the media would be so enhanced – it would clearly raise drastically his loyalty to this medium
He tells me he goes online to find info about the cars. John says he’d like to know how green these cars are and how much it actually costs to drive and maintain them. Here are his three choices:
– the official Porsche website
The first two don’t really answer these questions in a straightforward way.
But when it comes to users’ reviews it’s not easy either: John has to go through a lot of shallow comments and irrelevant information before he can access what he needs: mpg data, maintenance cost, etc.
So what about a media company that develops a system to collect user-generated content and sort it out and find a way to establish a hierarchy so that shallow comments go to the end of the list and relevant serious information comes to the top?
This is something John would really value. It would save him time and give him access to real conversations with like-minded people who own and drive the cars he’s considering. And this could be done on all other topics John would tell his media company he would like to hear about.
So why not including in the media of tomorrow a way to curate content? To feed readers with user-generated content filtered and organized in a way that’s relevant to the profile and aspirations of each readers.
This is typically a north-west quadrant / south-east quadrant type of approach grounded in the south-west quadrant: open creative thinking applied to improve performance based first and foremost on consumer value creation.
So the media still has a critical role to play. There’s still a lot to do and a lot of potential to enhance the media industry for both readers and magazines.