Returning to Chris O’Brien’s Business Model Challenge, here are some suggested approaches and models from the perspective of an entrepreneur and strategic consultant. For a more rigorous approach I would absolutely check out Chris’s recommended NewspaperNext report. That said, let’s try and smash some boxes or at least poke some holes in existing ones…
1) MyPaper model: Going beyond the trend in news aggregation and self-customized news portals like NetVibes, why not think about physical papers that are delivered to your door (or on the Web/mobile device) which combine your specific preferences for local, national, and international news + features + advertisements? I would gladly pay a premium for a paper that combined what I want out of the New York Times, state/regional news, and my local hometown paper all in one. Obviously this would take more work on the part of the subscription department in determining what I and my family want in “MyPaper”, not to mention the need for sharing agreements among multiple news outlets, but it also presents a tremendous and highly targeted advertising opportunity that many advertisers would pay dearly for. The same could be done for cable TV and Radio…going beyond a la carte selections to a single MyStation that I pay a monthly subscription for depending on the degree and type of customization. The current news presentation approach of “everyone eats off of the same plate” seems somehow antiquated and inefficient in an era of the personalization of everything.
2) Community-driven & Distributed News model: Instead of trying to keep everyone on your own website/portal at a time when the trend is moving in the opposite direction (see JD Lasica’s discussion of that here), why not try to get your own stuff on everyone else’s site? XYZ news outlet could provide any website/blog/mobile device with a simple, customizable widget with scrolling headlines based on location (i.e., zipcode/tagwords/location sensors) relevance. The widget would be free for basic service, but the news outlet would PAY THE HOST SITE a small fee to have their own headlines scrolled at the top – the assumption being that preferred placement leads to click through on a particular site, advertising revenue and the rest. The benefit for the host site is that they can provide local, customized news to site visitors AND get paid by simply hosting a community news widget. Some organizations/businesses might even pay to have someone aggregate information and write locally relevant news for their audience- another revenue generating service that media outlets could provide under this model.
3) Place-based & Mobile-centric Model: This is another type of distributed model, but one that relies on mobility and physical location while on the go. The idea is that news is increasingly relevant, and therefore more valuable if it can be associated with where we are at the moment. For example, as a tourist in say, San Francisco, when you pass by City Hall you might get information on the latest scandal involving Mayor Gavin Newsom. While at the zoo you might get up to speed about the recent Tiger mauling case. Location-based media services could come with a subscription charge to the end user split between carriers & media outlets, but might also be supported by LOCAL BUSINESSES as part of a subscription advertising package. This type of locative media relies on sensor technologies like GPS, bluetooth, Wifi, Radio Frequency ID tags, etc., but they are increasingly common & inexpensive. On a side note, another benefit of this model is that it could allow people to add information and news to a location via their mobile devices, and to interact around location-based news both with other people and news gathering organizations. Everybody wins.
4) Leveraging physical distribution channels: One asset that newspapers don’t seem to take full advantage of is there local paper routes. Instead of just using these distribution channels to deliver papers (and the occasional shampoo & laundry detergent sample), why not also use it to deliver things like lottery tickets, emergency preparedness kits, and local products that people can order online at the newspaper website? The idea here is to add value to the paper by increasing its scope of services and relevance as a provider of more than just information. Of course this type of expanded service model requires partnerships with etailers, shippers, and a beefed up sales/distribution team, but it takes advantage of the front door distribution and local knowledge networks that local papers, in particular, have taken great pains to establish.
5) Social Networking & Consulting: Speaking of local knowledge networks, one other assett that local news & media outlets have built into their work is a rich understanding of local issues and people. That information is extremely valuable and could be “sold” in the form of consulting to help people find the right business partners, for example. Obviously there is a challenge here in not violating journalistic independence and integrity by disclosing certain types of information and making the insider knowldege of reporters available to the highest bidder, but done appropriately the community, political, and people knowledge that news organizations have at their disposal could be made available for a reasonable fee. An easy way to test this model is for a newspaper or media outlet to setup its own online social network with how-to categories like “what it takes to get a building permit” or “working local politics” with discussion and information sharing led by beat reporters or local experts. Ideally this would be a paid, premium service built on top of a standard, freely available local social network offered by the media outlet.
Would love to hear of new or old examples of the above, why they will or won’t work, or other better examples. And coming back to the headline…how about we establish the annual _**Chris O’Brien New Media Business Model Awards **_to promote new thinking in this area? Are you game?