Outside in & inside out

Business model innovation for newspapers these days is not just about making money or moving online, as it used to be. Now is the time to examine the whole enchilada. Publishers need to look from the outside in and from the inside out.

Why? Simple! The traditional two revenue streams keep declining. New technology based threats are around the corner and the economic crises, yes plural, increase in strength. A rather explosive mix.

Most publishers however think the current threats will end, as they always did. Several stunning examples of this approach could be witnessed this week, at least in my own country. The editor in chief of one of Holland’s largest nationwide papers publicly called for help from advertisers. One of the advertisers in the room asked himself why he should advertise. The response: because a lot of people read the paper. Response from the advertiser: a lot of people read Donald Duck as well. Another nationwide paper still carries a lot of full colour advertisments for the paper itself. Think about it: buy the product you have already bought.  A third paper received a hefty fine, because they used illegal immigrants to deliver the paper product.

And then there is this other thing. A lot of papers offer products to their readers. They try to sell cases of wine, books, music, trips, magazines and even computers or umbrellas. What they basicly are saying to their clients is: I sell the same sort of product as you do, but I don’t pay to advertise. But you have to.

Will they?

The inside out innovation should focus on the quality of the product and the way it is produced. Even today we can still witness different and not cooperating departments for print and online news. Not to mention the organizational and mental barriers between content and commerce.

Looking outside in newspapers have to look at competing news sources and devices and do a simple SWOT. And then examine themselves from the viewpoint of advertisers in a similar way.

If and when colleagues do not combine their strengths to tackle existential and therefore essential problems, who will? Maybe it is time for commerce and content to sit down at one table and begin to ask questions like:

  • who are our readers
  • what is it they consider news
  • what is it they want
  • and need
  • what do they do all day
  • how much time do they have
  • why should an advertiser pay to reach our readers

Asking questions is what they normally do, isn’t it?

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