Why media executives must stop playing Simon Says and make up your own game


Legacy media all around the world are desperately chasing new business models. This should logically result in the greatest experimenting the industry has seen in history.

But, strangely enough, this is not the case.

Instead, the executives are playing a multi-billion dollar version of Simon Says. The metered digital subscription model is attracting numerous new adepts every quarter.

Ladies and gentlemen, you lead companies ranging from tiny, local solitaries to gigantic multi-nationals. Some of you target a national minority, others publish in one of the great world languages, serving a global audience. 

Some of you represent great brands, loaded with tradition and credibility. Others get bad appreciation scores – or are hardly even known at all in the target market.

The differences are humongous. So why on earth do you all seem to share the belief that there is a one-size-fits-all solution?

As a media consultant, I sometimes startle clients by asking what they actually know about their customers/users/readers. A basic question, you might think. But more often than not, the answer is: extremely little (except perhaps their snail-mail addresses and if their bill payment histories).

Most traditional media companies launched Web sites in the 1990s. Since then they have generated a massive amount of consumer data – ranging from topic preferences to prime time for certain types of material or platforms.

If we – like the global giants did – would have collected this in an organised manner, we would be able to pinpoint who wants to consume what content when, where and how.

If we – like the global giants do – would have used this knowledge to serve our customers’ needs, we would not only be profitable in the digital side of our business, we would have more client satisfaction than ever before.

Phone companies did it – moving from one fixed subscription in the household to several individual, more than tripling the revenue potential. They were also challenged by the technical and digital evolution, but they managed to turn this challenge into success.

So let’s stop asking the wrong questions, reasoning defensively on the potential risk of customers using each other’s digital subscription log-ins. Or wondering just how much data we can get them to volunteer while signing up.

Instead, let’s start delivering a great, personalised user experience, resulting in such an attractive offer that the customers are more than happy to opt in.

Let’s face it: Do you think you could get your teenagers to share your cell phone?

At this time of the year, with many clients soon off to summer holidays and booking up the events of the fall before leaving, I get a lot of speaker requests. One arrived in the mailbox the other day, from the owners of a small Swedish media conglomerate.

When I interrogated the chairperson on the needs, I got the following reply: “Give us some hope!”

Well, here is the sneak preview: You are sitting on a gold mine. You want profits? Then you’d better start digging.

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