Print publishers need to start looking at their business in a new way. Rather than maintaining the print versions of their magazine and newspaper publications as they are, and then deciding what form of walled garden, paywall, metered, micropayment and/or freemium model to implement online, they need to unbundle and redesign what they offer – which is news and information, not a printed magazine or electronic replication with enhancements.
Right now, a consumer has no choice in what they get in terms of a print publication. There is basically one version. You may read only a few sections of the New York Times but, too bad, you get it all, and now you need to deal with disposing of and/or recycling what you don’t read or need. It’s like saying to a shopper at Costco: I know you came in for diapers, but you also get motor oil with that purchase – for free – because they are bundled together. Well, that motor oil just makes the “bundle” worth less to me. I’d rather have the diapers alone or, perhaps, bundle them with pureed vegetables.
So it is with published content. I might like to have a print copy of the Sunday Arts & Leisure and Style sections as well as daily podcasts of the front page and daily e-mail news alerts about anything having to do with social media. So disaggregate what you offer and rebundle it in a way that is valuable to me. I might be willing to pay more for that combination than I currently pay for the printed publication.
Now I understand that the NYT may not want to create hundreds of thousands of customized product combinations. However, it may be the case that most people who read the Arts & Leisure section also follow social media. Through correlation and cluster analysis, I can get a sense of what individual elements tend to “go together” and then create a portfolio of options that appeal to different consumer segments. Remember that phrase, “consumer segmentation?” Personally I think it is one of the most powerful concepts that can be garnered from a $100,000 MBA education. I’m emphasizing it to you for free! So please don’t waste it.
While the New York Times does not seem to have used this disaggregation & correlation optimization approach in designing their new tiered/metered content approach, I’m getting the sense that some other print publications (I won’t mention them by name) may be exploring this kind of more sophisticated pricing. I think this could be the answer to much of what ails traditional media – from newspapers & magazines to books to interactive television. Executives have to be willing to take apart their current assumptions and create something that is bigger than the whole. As mentioned in previous blogs, I think that Flatworld Knowledge has done some interesting things in this space. And, based on a pricing strategy engagement I completed – with my colleagues at Abbey Road Associates – for a major equity research company, they also are tapping into the power of this kind of analysis.
Don’t miss out. It’s powerful stuff. Not easy, not to be done without expert pricing supervision but well worth the effort.