How publishers can harness the value of quality and choice


The value of content. It's multiple choice.

Here we all are, working hard each day to get a quality news product into the hands of a waiting public. We feel the value of our product is inherent and proven.

What about that public? Many would suggest that a generational shift has reduced the value of a newspaper product, and in some cases, specifically reduced the perceived value of news from a known, single source. One might assume, then, that the value of quality is in question.

Before we jump to that conclusion, let's consider another trend. Aggregation. We're seeing news consolidation in a variety of forms — in tablet apps like Flipboard, in Web sites like Huffington Post as well as in blogs and social media. I've seen descriptions of the underlying consumer behavior as:

  • News grazers: “get news from time to time.”

  • Passive news consumers: “if it's important, the news will find me.”

News grazers and passive news consumers aren't going to actively seek out a variety of sources to triangulate and form an opinion. The value is on the ability to bring the news to the reader, not the objectivity or credibility of the source. This behavior suggests that choice is the attribute of value. The value, though, is just enough to warrant a bit of one's time — not their money.

So how do we harness the value of quality content and the value of choice?

Part of the pursuit of choice seems to apply to news platforms as well. Clearly we are in a period of promiscuity when it comes to a favored, single platform or medium. Many newspapers like The Wall Street Journal aren't seeing their existing subscriber base cannibalized by digital options. Instead, those readers are adding digital, even at an incremental charge. As for the new entrants into the news category, while they may not be looking to the paper medium, they are certainly choosing digital bundles that support a desire for news “anytime, anywhere.”

The other aspect of choice only now being tested is the collection of quality news sources into a paid bundle, like or bundled publications across a brand like The Wall Street Journal Digital Network. The Detroit Free Press' combined newspaper and digital weekly subscription is another flavor of choice and quality coming together to drive value.

When taken individually, trends seem to head our industry into sub-optimal business models. It seems like there is an opportunity to re-frame the trends, co-mingle them, to create more favorable outcomes — and, dare I say, growth.

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