Some Thoughts on Premium Content

A good friend of mine (and client) forwarded me this article about the New York Times looking at charging for its content and it spurred these thoughts about premium content …

Here they are:

I can’t wait to see what happens with the New York Times as it’ll define the newspaper industry somewhat as the Wall Street Journal has been doing with their online model. (The rest of the industry on the national news level is in flames.)

I really think traditional media (and I hate to say this) needs to all topple to the ground …. THEN we’ll really see what rises up in its ashes.

Something WILL rise up in its ashes … and I hope it does. As a former newspaper journalist who transitioned from print to pixel, I still have a fond love of print. In particular, I don’t want to see journalistic standards wash away. That’s one of the persistent knocks I hear from people about “blogging.”

Having said that … I firmly believe that niche publications will continue to exist and perhaps flourish.

There is still a market for “premium” content … but it’s all in how it’s bundled (See our University as our experiment into this). And my emphasis is on niche publications here.

For instance … in the general news category, it is SUPER competitive and I don’t see a bright future for traditional news because users (through Twitter and bloggers) will only get better and better at scooping them.

Traditional news media will never compete for ‘spot news,’ ever. That day is gone. The power is now with the people than the Paper. There are way too many tools that give the people on the scene the power and freedom to publish it instantly. For example, see the Twitpic of the Hudson River plane crash.

With regards to spot news, traditional media would be good to promote open source philosophy. They should be empowering the common citizen to be reporters on the scene (and some are) and urging them to participate WITH them.

But … I do think niche publications have an edge in being profitable.

It’s like the New Yorker … you can’t get that level of writing or perspective elsewhere.

But general news … it’s EVERYWHERE. In fact, I use Twitter Search and Trending Topics to know who’s won a game now or for breaking news.

In regards to premium content, I think the question comes:

What can’t people get everywhere and how much would they pay for it?

It’s not traditional news. Sorry, guys.

But I do think it is specialized analysis and training – informed opinions and perspectives of experts in niche arenas.

It comes down to expertise that you can’t get everywhere.

THAT’S what people will pay for.

I’ve found people are hungry for niche expert content. They will pay for it if it’s good and from a trusted and reliable source. They’ll pay for interaction with those experts. They’ll pay for continued support for when they have questions. They’ll pay for the community that is built around it.

What do you think?

Update: Got this tweet after publishing the article …

From @blpro: @corymiller303 I agree with your post and you nailed it, this is where the difference is:

2 replies on “Some Thoughts on Premium Content”

There needs to be some kind of paid content for the businesses/newspapers/what have you to continue. People need their paychecks. Thousands upon thousands have already been put out of work. But part of it is that many sites put the content online, all of it, for free and hope to get conversation going in the comments. Advertisers see that and put their money in hoping that it pays off and it doesn’t. Part of it is that newspapers, at least the smaller ones, just don’t understand Twitter, Facebook, or any kind of social media. They don’t understand people interaction. They want to go to their local town meeting with their reporters notebook and that’s it and yet they want that younger crowd. Because let’s face it the older newspaper reader is getting older. It’s not new blood coming in and eventually, like everyone ultimately does, they’ll die off. I came from a smaller local paper run by a corporate entity that didn’t get their product. They couldn’t tell you on any level two above me what their product was about, who it was aimed towards and HOW to put out the product. Their demands were absurd and, months later if not less, were proven not to work. The game plan changed about 5 times over and is still changing, even though I’m no longer there. They don’t get it.

What works is a site that gives breaking news for free. People want to hear when there’s an accident or whatever else you can think of. It doesn’t have to be an award winning story. Just that it happened. People want to know what their commute is going to be like on the way home. But those news stories that take weeks to put together. Those need to be paid. If a reader likes the website/company/newspaper they’ll pay for that content.

On the flip side I don’t think people GET that everything just cannot be free. Over 15 million are unemployed in the United States. That number grows exponentially every day. The economy is not getting better. So yeah the reader is saving on their free news but they just put that reporter out of work. Most don’t even care until it effects them which says very much about the times we live in.

All that for the very basic. Live and breaking news = free. Everything else = pay. For that person sitting in the newsroom every day. They should know more then I do about what goes where and how their workflow is situated. Unfortunately in my news room not many knew. They barely knew how to input a story into a computer in the year 2009.

Having run meetings on redesigning two newspapers from the ground up I’ve seen quite a bit positive and negative. But newspapers won’t be saved until people face the harsh reality and make meaningful decisions and learn more about their own industry, their own company, and their own readers.

The brief version since it’s a website comment box.

Anthony, thanks for taking the time to comment here and I appreciate your insight.

I agree … free is a great attraction strategy and draw. But then have a paid “analysis” or “commentary” section.

From my days at newspapers, I have to say … most weekly and daily writers would REALLY need to hone in their voice and offering to make it worthwhile (for me at least), BUT I believe it can happen.

I’ll be VERY sad when (not if) the newspaper industry takes a fall because I love it. But it has not traditioned properly and now is being forced to because those newspapers were cash cows and their corporate leadership choose to milk them until they were dry.

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