Innovating for the “me first” generations
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.
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!