Publishers unbind their customers by unbundling their content


The New York Times, according to Christopher Williams of The Telegraph, plans to introduce a “a range of cheaper services, including a news digest app and a recipe app, to seek new revenues from readers who won’t pay for a full digital subscription.”

These apps will contain less in-depth content and be aimed at casual readers.

Denise Warren, the Times’ executive vice president of digital products and services, said the news company plans to unlock new revenue streams by unbundling its content, rather than threatening existing ones.  

(The new NYT Now mobile app, which sounds similar to Yahoo’s Digest, was recently announced at South By Southwest Interactive.)

In his July post on INMA’s Disruptive Innovation blog, “News is no longer enough to support a geography-based media business model,” Steve Gray said: “We need to figure how to provide solutions they (the community) will regard as essential in their own lives and will use over and over every day. News has its place in this, but it’s a far bigger assignment than news.”

In many cases the audience doesn’t want all of us, as the NYT is acknowledging, just the bits they find valuable – usually the ever-growing, evergreen content we collect (reviews, events, local history, etc.).

Not only is this an unbundling opportunity, it’s a chance to go beyond just the news and provide additional utility to our audiences.

What’s more, your evergreen or durable content is likely specific to your geography in ways that the larger/national media can’t match.

The Dallas Morning News has experimented with a range of such apps – from its Best in DFW to Skyline, an app that locates and provides information about key buildings in Dallas.

But it’s not just the staid news and reviews that have potential .

The Austin American-Statesman has an app dedicated to the popular bat colony living under the Congress Avenue Bridge.

The local stuff that makes your community unique – the stuff you likely cover again and again – is your best resource.

  • How many local top-10 lists have you produced?

  • How many restaurant reviews?

  • What’s the unique history of your area?

  • Reporting on events/things to do?

Where you once might produce a special section, or a re-occurring feature, you can unbundle and publish an entire app.

Not only does this content provide you an angle for an app, an additional forum for advertisers, and reaffirm you as the resource for that local content, but it opens your content up to those who avoid wading through other content to get what they want.  

Costs to develop simple apps are coming down, and there are also firms specialising in quick app development, as well as those providing easy-to-use, do-it-yourself (DIY) tools.

Since you’re re-purposing content (and keeping things simple), your level of effort is lower, too – allowing for low barriers to experiment.  

“Unbundling” won’t make you a mint. Nor is it likely to result in a slew of new subscriptions. But it does provide additional publication channels for your brand, give durable content new life, and mine new audiences.

You’ve got the content. Now, what can you do with it?

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