Is the Magazine Broken?

With technology progressing at such a rapid pace, it’s difficult to envision exactly how we’ll be consuming content even 5 years from now.  The following video highlights how quickly technology is removing barriers to accessing information.  To this baby, the concept of a magazine simply doesn’t make sense.  

From a recent Penelope Trunk blog post: “I’m convinced that the biggest impact Generation Z will have on the workplace is in their schooling. They will be lifelong, self-learners, who take more personal responsibility for their ongoing education than any generation in history. I am not talking about graduate school here. I am talking about a more creative, independent way of learning that does not stop at college, but rather, picks up pace remarkably after college, when real experiential learning starts happening.”

The ease with which we can now access content is what makes independent, continual learning possible.  5 years ago I would read a book on my train ride to work.  Today, my iPad let’s me get a jump start on my work day, write my next blog post, or network with colleagues or friends.  With an hour communite from the suburbs to the city, that’s two hours a day I can spend being productive virtually any way I wish.  Productivity has never been more attainable and technology will only continue to make it easier.

Advertisements

Mobile Publishing: Mygazines

In an increasingly mobile world, the need for content on Smart Phones and tablet devices can’t be ignored.  But how much should companies be investing to stay on the cutting edge?   With mobile applications still in their infancy and the cost of app development seemingly unmanageable for most small companies, the search for reasonable alternatives begins.   

Mygazines offers a great option for anyone from a freelance writer to a large publishing company looking to make their content mobile-ready, at a reasonable cost.  The service has some impressive marketing functionality as well, with options for content sharing, social media integration, built in RSS feeds and video integration.  The only catch is that the services requires a browser to launch; which takes most e-readers off the market.

Today, the need for app development may be dependent on a number of factors including; industry specific requirements, the types of content being displayed and the price customers are willing to pay to get what they want.   For everyone else, there’s solutions like Mygazines to meet customer needs without breaking the bank.

Price Sensitivity

With gas prices higher than they’ve ever been (and the obvious consumer discontent associated) it got me thinking about the threshold that exists for price increases. Gas is obviously a commodity that people need to get around, but at what point do people get so frustrated with the cost that they look to alternative forms of transportation? In some cases high prices are bearable and not worth the additional effort necessary to change a daily routine. However; there has to be a threshold at which people decide enough is enough. In most cases that threshold will probably be dependent on the cost of switching to a different brand or in this example, method of transportation.

Often publishing companies that operate on a subscription model battle with the best approach to annual price increases. As a product’s readership decreases the price needs to increase to maintain consistent revenues. But at what point will the customers that purchase the product look for an alternative because the cost of the product is simply no longer worth the value they receive in return?

The Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter is an approach to researching pricing that asks the following 4 key questions to set a range within which people will continue to purchase the product in question:

1) At what price do you begin to think a product is too expensive to consider?
2) At what price do you think a product is so inexpensive that you would question the quality and not consider it?
3) At what price do you think a product is getting expensive, but would still consider it?
4) At what price do you think the product is a bargain?

In the digital age, one thing publishers have struggled with is putting a value on “content”.    Most consumers expect that the cost of a book be significantly less on a tablet because there are no costs associated with a physical product.   By implementing a Van Westendorp Study, you can more effectively use customer feedback to set prices in the range that optimizes sales and keeps customers satisfied.

140 Characters

When Twitter first launched and I heard it had a character limitation I thought “how can users say ANYTHING meaningful in 140 characters?” Originally, Twitter seemed best suited to following celebrities and letting followers know what you were doing – serving a limited (not to mention easily duplicated) function at best.

Though it may have been slow to catch on, Twitter has evolved into something much bigger.

In business to business publishing, “news trackers” have become increasingly common to provide customers with relevant, timely information, with short headlines that help users filter what they do and do not want to read in greater depth. As the need for content on mobile devices has increased, limitations to the amount of content people want to view on their phones has pushed publishers to adopt a similar model to Twitter’s character limitations.

Today, even Twitter is used more as an information source than it is as a way to keep track of specific people. Rather than follow Chris Brogan to know what he had for lunch, we follow him for the the valuable knowledge and information to which he can connect us.

An evolution in the way Twitter is used has seemingly revolutionized the way that we filter information.

Top 5 Ways to Stay on the Cutting Edge

With the pace at which the online landscape is evolving, it’s easier than ever to become complacent and fall behind competition.  Businesses that are making the transition online need to recognize the importance of paying particular attention to factors that are likely to affect the future direction of their industry.  The following is a list of what I believe are the best ways to stay on the cutting edge and position your organization for the future.

1.  Know What Your Competition is Doing

While we’d ideally like to be ahead of our competition, knowing what they’re doing today will give pointers to where they are headed.

2.  Listen to Your Customers

They may not be able to tell you exactly what they want, but gaining insight to how they’ll use your products is essential to building irreplaceable solutions.

3.  Hire for technical expertise

Today everything is happening online.   If you don’t have the technical expertise, you’ll be left in the dust.  Even worse, the longer you wait to adapt to new technologies the harder it will be to get back into the game.  

4.  Do as an Entrepreneur Would

With the pace at which businesses and technologies are moving today, bureaucracy should be avoided at all costs.  Put decision making in the hands of people capable of making the right decisions and give your products a chance to grow.

5.  Involve Organizational Youth in Decision Making

A colleague recently told me that he heard “if you want to understand why Blackberry Messenger (BBM) is so popular, you’ll have to ask your kids”.  The youth may not have as much experience, but in many cases they’re closer to the innovations that will allow your business to flourish. Don’t forget their voice.

Where Do You Post-It?

If you’ve seen 3M’s latest efforts to sell Post-It Notes, you might be puzzled by what seems a non-traditional approach.  Post-It Notes’ current marketing campaign has targeted what was once a secondary customer group; the at home user.

In an increasingly paperless world Post-It Note usage in office environments will undoubtedly continue to decrease forcing 3M to proactively consider what other potential customers will contribute to revenue going forward.  While it may be some time before Post-It Notes are considered completely obsolete, the brand is smart to push for market growth in alternative customer segments.

Facing similar problems to the publishing industry, 3M is clearly attempting to make the most of it’s traditional business model while it searches for new revenue streams to fill the void that will one day exist in it’s office product line.  Innovative publishers must take a similar approach as they search for new opportunities in the digital space.

Would You Pay for Online Content?

A recent poll conducted by SmartBrief on Social Media asked readers if they believed media companies and publishers should charge for online content.

No, content wants to be free – 48.73%
Online content should be based on a “freemium model” – 28.48%
Yes, there will be buyers for all kinds of relevant information – 22.78%

The results weren’t surprising, but point to a couple of issues that publishers need to be aware of going forward.

  1. The increasing availability of content online is making credibility an important element of a publisher’s ability to charge for use.  Almost 30% of respondents thought that a “freemium model” was an appropriate approach, meaning potential customers would have access to a limited selection of content free of charge.  This approach gives exposure to the content and let’s potential purchasers see the product quality before making a decision.
  2. A person’s willingness to pay for content is partially dependent on their demographic and the type of content they’re interested in acquiring. For example, a professional that needs credible information as a part of their work responsibilities is more likely to pay for content than someone look for casual reading.
  3. The missing piece to most content you can find online (other than confirmed credibility) is the context.  Generally facts are easy to come by; however, the explanation of a trained professional is likely to have a much higher perceived value.  (See http://www.newmediacy.wordpress.com for  more information on the New York Times new pay-for-content plan).

My answer to whether or not publishers and media companies should charge for content is, it depends.  Customer demographics, the purpose of the communication and the ease of acquiring similar information elsewhere are just a few of the many considerations that need to be made before making a decision.  Content marketing has become an important component of the marketing mix for companies hoping to gain credibility with their target market, and the social landscape is increasingly used to facilitate the conversation.