The lines are drawn: charge for content, give content for free.
In Media’s two tribes The Economist breaks down the thought of charging for premium content over giving content away. In this article from The Economist, read about what 2 UK media outlets weigh in their chosen strategy as well a look at some of the film industry’s battles for a business model.
But now, it seems, things are changing all over again. The shift of the digital frontier from the Web, where the browser ruled supreme, to the smart phone, where the app and the pricing plan now hold sway, signals a radical shift from openness to a degree of closed-ness that would have been remarkable even before 1995.*
There are companies getting people to pay for digital content, interestingly content that is easily available for free. The model is driven by product: iPad, Kindle, and smart phones like the iPhone or Droid. The move is really a move from content available on a browser to content available on an app, as in application.
So, is content driving the revenue model or product app driving the revenue model? And if it is product, is it product convenience. Then we come back to the razor/razor blade marketing strategy, with a distinct twist: you are not giving away the razor, but making the razor (iPad or Kindle) high-priced, exclusive, and trendy and meanwhile the razor blades, the apps, become a continued steady revenue stream.
On a more conceptual level, the move from the browser model to the app model (where content is more likely to be accessed via smartly curated “stores” like iTunes, Amazon, or Netflix) signals the first real taming of the Wild Digital West.*
So, pay-per-peek or fully free access may be dependent on your ticket to access. If you view through your computer browser: free; if you view through your iPhone: paid.
It may come down to the world according to Apple or the world according to Google, affectionately known as Apple vs. Google. What is your idea of a frontier: a white picket fence or wide-open spaces?
And if you are one of the people who believe Google and the Internet are ruining the newspaper industry, turn your TV off and ponder this: In 1947, each 100 U.S. households bought an average of about 140 newspapers daily. Now they buy fewer than 50.**
And if you believe Google is ruining the news industry, they’re trying to save it, for anyone interested in professional news-gathering:
The deeper differences involve Google’s assumptions about what the news business will have to do to “engage” readers again—that is, make them willing to spend time with its printed, online, or on-air products, however much they cost. One Google employee who asked not to be named mentioned another report on journalism’s future and pointed out a section called “Focus on the User.” “They just mean, ‘Get money out of the user,’” he said. “Nowhere do they talk about how to create something people actually want to read and engage with and use.” On the topic of engaging modern users, Google feels very confident right now, and the news business feels very nervous. Apart from anything else, that certainty gap makes Google important to the future of the news.**
News, as compared to citizen journalism, blogging, and “crowdsourcing“, can not die, but news needs to be reborn to be valuable.
No doubt I got some things wrong, or left out some important ideas. Please let me know what you think and suggestions you have for me to add value.
- The Economist: Charging for content
- The Economist: The strange survival of ink
- *The Atlantic: The Closing of the Digital Frontier
- BusinessWeek: Apple vs. Google
- Newsweek: It’s Apple vs. Google in the New Phone Fight
- **The Atlantic: How to Save the News