Outside The Box Thinking On Information Delivery

Posted on 7/24/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The advertising model for funding the costs of newspaper and magazine content creation and delivery seems to have outlived its usefulness. Is there an alternative to meeting the needs of advertisers, content creators and consumers?

In today’s newspaper and magazine businesses, there are three separate groups of stakeholders whose interests often conflict: publishers, advertisers and content producers, which include writers, editors and photographers. Publishers want a profitable business and would publish the alphabet if someone would pay them enough to realize a profit. Advertisers want the most cost-effective way to deliver their message to potential customers and are increasingly deciding that the traditional print strategy is not the answer. Content producers want to earn a living communicating information.

An alternative

If newspapers were to remove the editorial content and turn into vehicles solely designed to deliver ads to consumers, the cost for advertisers would be less. They would not be paying to fill the editorial hole. Publishers would not have the cost of creating editorial content. Ads could be organized in a more efficient way for the consumer.

The paper’s frequency would be based entirely on the needs of the advertisers. It may not need to be daily. Maybe the big day is Friday, not Sunday. Keeping all ads of a particular type together could make it easier for consumers to find what they need. Special sections for restaurants, real estate, autos, drugs or books could be designed for easy filing by those interested in the category. This could satisfy the consumer desire for regular information concerning new products and upcoming sales or special offers.

Where do consumers go for news?

But how then do consumers get the news and information newspapers and magazine currently provide, and how do writers, editors and photographers make a living? All editorial information would be delivered on the Internet, not in a printed publication. Readers desiring a printed copy of something will have to print it themselves. Those that want to read on the subway should get a Kindle. A single site could give readers access to all types of information, from breaking national and international news to special interest material within the broader categories of sports, medicine, entertainment, science, etc. The key is in providing consumers with a single site that offers access to all types of information, delivered in a consistent format, so they do not have to search multiple sites.

Those currently working for major news outlets in various counties around the world, as well as those writing and photographing for special interest publications and blogs, would be the primary producers of this information. The principal requirement for participation would be a desire to be compensated for the content they create. The market will quickly tell each supplier if anyone is interested in paying for what they have to say.

An approval process for content creators would be set up to maintain a quality standard, but once approved, creators can upload as frequently as they like, as long as they do not violate general rules of the site. A short summary would be submitted with each story. Picture stories, illustrations and videos could be attached to any story; thumbnails of photos might be provided at no cost as part of the summary. A separate fee would be paid if the reader wanted to view an illustration or video.

Each story would be keyworded with a general category and appropriate sub-categories. A standardized category system would be developed. Someone living in Washington could easily access local news from London, New Delhi or Beijing. Stories would normally be organized by newest first, but customers could also search for the most read stories in a particular category, or by author.

Customers would establish a “news credits” account similar to the credit systems used on microstock sites. Each story or photo collection would be assigned a price for viewing. Customers would be able to read the summary paragraphs for free, but credits would be deducted from their account and applied to the creator’s account when a customer decided to read an entire story. The site operator would take a small percentage of the credits paid. Prices for stories might vary based on length, the reputation of the author or easily available access to similar information for free. General pricing guideline would be suggested, but creators would have a say in the pricing.

Existing publishers that want to stay in the business of supplying news and information can operate with salaried staff, but the costs will be more difficult to manage because actual readership will determine revenue generated. Many consumers will find brand a critical factor in determining what to read. The majority of freelancers will find it difficult to get enough of a following to justify continued creation of material. Columnists with a reputation will probably find that is it is better to work on a fee-per-download basis rather than salary.

Consumers will benefit by being able to go to one source and quickly find the latest and most reliable information, no matter what the subject. They will save time compared to searching through all the free resources available through Google, Yahoo! and YouTube. The success of the microstock sites and iTunes has shown that a significant number of consumers are willing to pay something for greater ease of access, as long as the price is affordable and seems fair.

Copyright © 2009 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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