In­no­vat­ing for the “me first” gen­er­a­tions

The Insider - - PUBLISHING -

In the Jan­uary 2016 is­sue of The In­sider we des­ig­nated 2016 as the Year of the Per­son be­cause we be­lieve that “the per­son” must be at the cen­ter of ev­ery de­ci­sion that we make.

That fo­cus must in­fil­trate the en­tire me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tion and be an in­te­gral part of its cor­po­rate cul­ture and pub­lish­ing strat­egy — a for­mula that de­liv­ers the right con­tent to the right au­di­ence at the right time through the right chan­nels at the right price.

So while you may think that the word “gen­er­a­tions” in the ti­tle of this ar­ti­cle should not have an ‘s’, it was added in­ten­tion­ally — “me first” doesn’t re­fer only to Mil­len­ni­als.

Last Septem­ber I in­ter­viewed Leonard Brody — me­dia vi­sion­ary, se­rial en­tre­pre­neur and au­thor of The Great Re­write.

In his book, Brody pointed out that prior to the in­ter­net, power was con­trolled from the top-down, whether that be from pres­i­dents, prin­ci­pals, priests or pub­lish­ers.

But as a re­sult of mas­sive and rapid changes in

tech­nol­ogy and so­cial be­hav­ior that tra­di­tional pyra­mid of power has been com­pletely in­verted in al­most ev­ery facet of our lives.

To­day we live in a peo­ple-pow­ered planet which in­cludes ev­ery de­mo­graphic — we are all part of the “me first” so­ci­ety.

And Brody isn’t alone in his think­ing. The 2017 Edel­man Barom­e­ter Trust Study (in ref­er­ence to me­dia specif­i­cally) also showed that there has been a fun­da­men­tal shift in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween pub­lish­ers and read­ers.

Talk­ing at peo­ple or pub­lish­ing con­tent for peo­ple no longer works. To suc­ceed in this up­side-down world, pub­lish­ers need to pub­lish con­tent with peo­ple — and that means all peo­ple!

This in­verted pyra­mid phe­nom­ena and the fren­zied pace of change in tech­nol­ogy, par­tic­u­larly mo­bile, is rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing many in­dus­tries.

Mo­bile ma­nia

Speak­ing of mo­bile... I’m sure this doesn’t come as sur­prise, but ir­re­spec­tive of age, in­come or other de­mo­graph­i­cal data, al­most every­one has a mo­bile de­vice — some more than one.

And what’s in­ter­est­ing about the smart­phone is that we all have a very per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with it. It’s a win­dow into our lives, an ex­ten­sion of who we are — who I am. It con­tains all our apps, all of our emails, all of our pho­to­graphs and videos. And that in­cred­i­bly strange re­la­tion­ship that we have built with this de­vice is now con­trol­ling us.

When I spoke about this at FIPP’s Dig­i­tal In­no­va­tors Sum­mit in March 2017, I did a lit­tle ex­per­i­ment and asked all the at­ten­dees to hand their smart­phone to their neigh­bor. The tension in the room was pal­pa­ble — peo­ple sud­denly felt and looked very un­com­fort­able.

Af­ter I fi­nally let them have their phones back, I asked them, “How of­ten do you use your smart­phone in­clud­ing times you look at it, check it or use it for any rea­son?” When I dis­cov­ered that twothirds of them ac­tu­ally check it ev­ery few min­utes, this mo­bile habits study made a lot more sense to me.

But pub­lish­ing isn’t the only in­dus­try that’s be­ing im­pacted by tech­no­log­i­cal and so­cial dis­rup­tion. In ref­er­enc­ing back to The

Great Re­write, ev­ery in­dus­try in the world has been dis­rupted by the mas­sive tech­no­log­i­cal and so­cial changes that have oc­curred over the past two decades. Travel, hos­pi­tal­ity, mu­sic and pub­lish­ing…they’re all, in their own way, be­ing rewrit­ten from the ground up.

If you think Google and Face­book are threat­en­ing in­ter­me­di­aries in pub­lish­ing, you should check out the im­pacts On­line Travel Agen­cies (OTA), like Ex­pe­dia or pri­vate ac­com­mo­da­tion ser­vices like Airbnb, are hav­ing on the travel in­dus­try — tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tors who quickly cap­i­tal­ized on be­ing early adopters of mo­bile and rec­og­niz­ing the im­por­tance of su­pe­rior cus­tomer ser­vice through per­son­al­iza­tion.

It’s no won­der many ho­tels and air­lines are mak­ing cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence a strate­gic pri­or­ity in 2017.

No one is im­mune

Brands (e.g. Ac­corHo­tels, Qan­tas Air­ways), con­sumers, and pub­lish­ers are all feel­ing the ef­fects of the trans­for­ma­tions hap­pen­ing in and around them; and they’re all talk­ing. PressReader is in the unique po­si­tion of be­ing in the mid­dle of those con­ver­sa­tions, work­ing to help all of them to stay on top of the lat­est trends and nav­i­gate to­wards, what we hope will be, a brighter, trans­formed, fu­ture.

Over the past six months, PressReader part­nered with two in­dus­try or­ga­ni­za­tions: the As­so­ci­a­tion of Pas­sen­ger Ex­pe­ri­ence (APEX) and Forbes Travel Guide, one of the founders of the five-star rank­ing sys­tem for ho­tels.

Th­ese are in­dus­tries that have built cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions around com­po­nents of the guest/ pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence. So we sur­veyed the travel ex­ec­u­tives to get in­sights into their con­tent plans for the fu­ture in or­der to un­der­stand how and why things were chang­ing in this rewrit­ten world.

We wanted to dig deeper into one piece of the guest ex­pe­ri­ence pie — ac­cess to qual­ity con­tent such as mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers — some­thing that has been a value-added ser­vice at ho­tels and air­lines for many decades.

The good news is that those in the travel in­dus­try be­lieve that qual­ity con­tent is an in­te­gral part of the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. In fact, Forbes Travel Guide’s 5-star ho­tel cri­te­ria in­cludes the pro­vi­sion of com­ple­men­tary ac­cess to me­dia as part of the met­rics that they use to rate a ho­tel.

What’s great is that, con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, peo­ple across all de­mo­graph­ics value high qual­ity con­tent. And those who use me­dia apps spend even more time con­sum­ing it.

• 89% of the U.S. adult mo­bile pop­u­la­tion ac­cess news via their mo­bile de­vice and it’s not just for news bites and snack­ing

• Long-form jour­nal­ism (typ­i­cally found in mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers) re­ceives more views and shares, and en­gages read­ers more, than other con­tent forms.

And don’t be­lieve ev­ery­thing you read about the grow­ing mis­trust in me­dia, trust in spe­cific me­dia brands and jour­nal­ists re­mains strong across all age groups. Mag­a­zines, in par­tic­u­lar, have re­tained the loy­alty of read­ers by pro­duc­ing high qual­ity ed­i­to­rial that feeds peo­ple’s pas­sions and glossy ad­ver­tis­ing — a phe­nom­e­non of­ten at­trib­uted to the “Vogue Ef­fect.”

How­ever, and this is im­por­tant, print is check­ing out of ho­tels and air­planes faster than you prob­a­bly think or hope.

Most ho­tel chains and air­lines have ei­ther al­ready stopped dis­tribut­ing printed edi­tions to cus­tomers or plan to re­duce print over the next three years.

It’s im­por­tant to note that both of th­ese seg­ments have tra­di­tion­ally of­fered me­dia con­tent in a very lim­ited way. It wasn’t all that long ago that you’d wake up in a ho­tel to find a printed edi­tion of a news­pa­per out­side your door — a pa­per many guests never touched. Once on the air­line fly­ing home, if there was any in­flight en­ter­tain­ment avail­able at all, it would be lim­ited to a sin­gle movie watched from a shared screen hang­ing at ceil­ing. But times and con­tent are chang­ing.

Many air­lines are also by­pass­ing in-seat en­ter­tain­ment and driv­ing on­board ser­vices to pas­sen­gers’ de­vices, see­ing dig­i­tal ac­cess to pub­li­ca­tions on a trav­eler’s per­sonal de­vice as hugely ben­e­fi­cial — only 15% said the same of printed pub­li­ca­tions.

The move to of­fer­ing qual­ity dig­i­tal con­tent is well un­der­way by thousands of th­ese con­sumer-fo­cused busi­nesses in their on­go­ing ef­forts to give peo­ple what they want.

Now it’s not easy try­ing to serve mul­ti­ple de­mo­graph­ics with a sin­gle prod­uct, let alone read­ers who are “all about me” and as unique as their fin­ger­prints.

When it comes to con­tent con­sump­tion, one size does not fit all. In to­day’s “me first” world, you need to be able to de­liver the right con­tent to the right au­di­ence (think per­son) at the right time through the right chan­nels at the right price.

To fa­cil­i­tate “fric­tion­less dis­cov­ery” of per­son­al­ized, high-qual­ity con­tent you need a pretty pow­er­ful cu­ra­tion en­gine seam­lessly em­bed­ded in the newsfeed. And that en­gine needs to an­a­lyze much more than clicks, likes and shares. It needs to con­sider…

• What’s trend­ing — i.e. con­tent that re­tained other read­ers’ at­ten­tion the long­est

• Con­tent that is rel­e­vant based on what the user is read­ing now and has con­sumed be­fore

• Ar­ti­cles that oth­ers, who have also read the same ar­ti­cle, en­joyed

• Sto­ries that peo­ple with sim­i­lar tastes have en­gaged with

Then, to en­sure that the con­tent pre­sen­ta­tion is op­ti­mized for any de­vice and any browser, a pre­dic­tive al­go­rithm is needed that builds, on the fly, all pos­si­ble lay­outs of the con­tent for what­ever de­vice a reader uses, test each of them against a de­vice’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties and then choose the best one for that reader. That is achieved through ma­chine learn­ing that is be­com­ing more and more preva­lent.

This is a big ask. So who’s go­ing to pay for all of this? We know that qual­ity con­tent at­tracts qual­ity au­di­ences, but un­for­tu­nately we also know that most peo­ple aren’t will­ing to pay for it. And if they do, it’s only about US$8 -10 a year.

Which is why there are so many mon­e­ti­za­tion mod­els in use to­day — mod­els that are not mu­tu­ally exclusive. I’ve grouped them into four: Free (ad-sup­ported), Sub­scrip­tions (with pay­walls), pay-by-ar­ti­cle (iTunes) and all you can con­sume (Net­flix/Spo­tify).

The free, ad-sup­ported model — once the mon­e­ti­za­tion main­stay for dig­i­tal pub­lish­ers — con­tin­ues to suf­fer as ad block­ing be­comes more per­va­sive across the net.

By the end of 2016 there were over 600 mil­lion de­vices block­ing ads, cost­ing the in­dus­try over US$40 bil­lion.

Sub­scrip­tions with var­i­ous forms of pay­walls sur­round­ing them have been some­what suc­cess­ful for high-pro­file and unique con­tent brands like the Fi­nan­cial Times, but do lit­tle to pull most pub­lish­ers out of the red zone.

Which is why some pub­lish­ers, along with at­tempt­ing to mon­e­tize con­tent through sub­scrip­tions and pay­walls are look­ing to mod­els that dis­ag­gre­gate their con­tent into sell­able bits.

With Blen­dle’s iTunes-like model, magazine and news­pa­per ar­ti­cles cost read­ers any­where from pen­nies to over a dol­lar with rev­enues split 70/30 with pub­lish­ers. It’s had some suc­cess in The Nether­lands and Ger­many (coun­tries that are ob­vi­ously very dif­fer­ent lin­guis­ti­cally than oth­ers), but hasn’t fared as well in North Amer­ica, likely be­cause of the mas­sive amount of free con­tent al­ready avail­able there.

I do ap­plaud the com­pany’s com­mit­ment to in­no­va­tion and putting read­ers first with their money-back guar­an­tee de­signed to re­duce click­bait head­lines. But I’m not con­vinced it will be scal­able out­side a few coun­try bor­ders where scarcity still drives de­mand.

The all-you-can-con­sume/flat rate model which PressReader de­vel­oped in 2003 for news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines (years be­fore Net­flix) has gained pop­u­lar­ity over the years with a num­ber of other ven­dors jump­ing on board in the magazine-only space.

The model is sound in terms of giv­ing read­ers a one-stop-shop for dis­cov­er­ing and con­sum­ing qual­ity con­tent. The prob­lem is that most peo­ple, again, won’t pay the sub­scrip­tion price.

That’s where brands come in.

To­day thousands of ho­tels, air­lines, cruise ships and li­braries, not only care about de­liv­er­ing a su­pe­rior cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, they also spon­sor ac­cess to paid ag­gre­ga­tion ser­vices on be­half of their cus­tomers. And not just out of phil­an­thropic as­pi­ra­tions for the pub­lish­ers or con­sumers, but be­cause they see it as a win-win-win sit­u­a­tion all around:

• Busi­nesses are able to of­fer unique value to their cus­tomers in an eco-friendly way, sav­ing money while grow­ing brand eq­uity and loy­alty across all de­mo­graph­ics;

• Read­ers get the de­sired fric­tion­less ac­cess to qual­ity, trusted con­tent and an en­gag­ing, ed­u­ca­tional or en­ter­tain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at no charge to them

• Pub­lish­ers can in­stantly serve a mas­sive au­di­ence of mil­lions of peo­ple they couldn’t pos­si­bly ac­cess on their own, grow­ing reach, au­dited cir­cu­la­tion and rev­enues.

Op­ti­miz­ing the mix of con­tent, peo­ple and chan­nels is crit­i­cal to max­i­miz­ing en­gage­ment, rev­enues and prof­its for pub­lish­ers. By pack­ag­ing a pub­lisher’s con­tent into bun­dles that serve dif­fer­ent au­di­ences through dif­fer­ent chan­nels, pub­lish­ers can open new op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­gage with new read­ers and grow rev­enues without can­ni­bal­iz­ing their ex­ist­ing in­come streams.

In­no­vat­ing for the “me first” gen­er­a­tions is a chal­lenge, but it has been done suc­cess­fully and has proven to en­gage them longer than tra­di­tional news­feeds. It all comes down to the sim­ple for­mula of get­ting the right con­tent to the right au­di­ence at the right time through the right chan­nels at the right price.

If you’d like learn more, or share what you’re do­ing to en­gage with your au­di­ences, let’s talk!

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