I’ve bumped into a series of issues related to publishing recently. I don’t know that they ever will or should combine to form a coherent idea, but it feels like I should record them as though in a design notebook…
The audience for news is growing, but the newspaper business model is failing. Something like 40% of a newspaper’s costs are from the printed paper, 90% of the revenue, but a declining portion of the readership. Classifieds and inserts in the printed paper just aren’t working any more compared with what’s available online. News orgs across the country have been cutting back for a long time and are continuing to do so.
My boss is reading Cory Doctorow on his iPhone.
Every buying decision is painful to me. “Do I really want this? What exactly am I getting here and will it be worth it?” The trick is to make each sale seem like something that I have successfully bought before. Instead of wondering about whether I’ll be happy with some new book, it’s easier to buy “the current edition” of some magazine I like. I think micropayments for individual on-line content has not been at all successful (yet) because it converts every single purchase into a first-time purchase. If I’m going to take a risk on something for the first time, there better be enough “there” there for it to be likely to have been worth the time it took me to agonize over whether it was worth it.
Berk Breathed has stopped writing daily newspaper comics, citing a disappearing market. My daughter is a great fan of Ozy and Millie online.
I love local stuff in the paper.
Short stories and serializations work better online than novels. Newspaper articles are a good length. Comics are a good format for an iPhone screen.
A guy in San Francisco stuck two cameras out his window and set up the feed as adamsblock.com. It was a huge hit, with people making up games in the user-comment section. Thugs in Adam’s high-crime neighborhood shut him down, but others are now springing up in his high-crime neighborhood, throughout the city, and in other cities.
There’s free content on the Web that you don’t sign in to, free content that you do sign in to, and paid content. All three have their place, and sometimes cooperatively so. For example, each can act as a sales funnel for the next. Tracking what folks do in the larger parts of the funnel helps you to know what people are interested in generally, and it helps you qualify leads for your sales efforts in the more expensive tiers.
People haven’t figured out how to make money from blogging, but they want to.
Just-in-time is valuable for some things. I might read a free comic or column on a non-sign-in Web site when new stuff comes out each month, or whenever I happen to look. But I might pay for an electronic-newstand issue that has a bunch of stuff that I want to read without waiting. Particularly for stuff from a source that I know will be satisfying because I’ve bought it before, or at least read some version of it before.
I’d like to have a whole bunch of relatively short related stuff to explore on a timely topic. News, essays, fiction, visual comics/photos/movies on The Election, The Green Economy, 15 Ways Fuel Cells Will Change the World, 12 Free Things To Do With the Family This Weekend in Silicon Valley. Community commentary might or might not matter to me.
In a developing new market, it is important to build mindshare and marketshare, and to experiment with different business models.
A product must provide value for every participant in the value-chain. Contributors at various levels (e.g., unpaid, paid, superstar) should be able to build their own brand. Advertisers and subscribers should know that each payment is helping to build a sustainable ecosystem that is going to be valuable to them in the long run.
I think I’m imagining a “New Yorker for the 21 st century” that I purchase to browse and read over time. The content and design of each issue is created especially for iPhone viewing. A free form dribbles out and archives some or all of the same material and has targeted advertising. A sign-in version allows commentary, localized and personalized content, and possibly user-provided content, and acts as further targeting and as a farming mechanism for identifying and developing both subject and talent. All three formats are highly interlinked to help the reader to serendipitously discover other content of interest.