There is a very interesting piece in Editor & Publisher by columnist Steve Outing, who has produced a steady stream of excellent commentary on the impact of the Web on journalism:
Outing makes a number of points in this piece that definitely are worth further thought and consideration, including:
1- The potential of mobile as big-time opportunity for news publishers … and especially opportunities for phone applications.
2 – The importance of recognizing that “Most people seem to prefer to spend money on things they get to ‘keep’” … rather than “emphemeral” online news that they only read once.
Here are a few Immediate reactions to the piece:
1 – I am not as optimistic about apps as Outing seems to be. His position is not stupid; I just don’t see much promise for revenues. Apps strike me as one-time purchases that would not produce enough revenue to support a news operation.
2 – On the other hand, his points about the value of “things that people get to keep” versus the lack of value of “ephemeral news” are terrific. Revenue from memberships also seems promising. For example, Outing mentions “participation subscriptions,” which seems like a particularly promising approach that could fit nicely with the “Core Constituencies” model on which I have worked in a couple of recent projects. [This does bring to mind that one "thing that people can keep" is membership / subscription that allows participation in an on-going community (see 5 below). My feeling is that traditional news organizations have under-estimated this as an opportunity because it requires them to re-think of the kind of editorial that they will need to produce. It also is important to keep an open might about the types of organizations that might offer "memberships." For instance, Angie's list might be an example that news organizations might want to look at more closely for insights.]
3- The suggestions that Outing got from Stanford psychology professor B.J. Fogg definitely are worth additional examination and consideration, including Fogg’s argument advice that it is important to use physical-world analogs when evaluating any potential business model for online news enterprises.
4 – I think I also may be more optimistic than Outing is about finding real-world examples of new models for online journalism. For instance, IDG (parent of Computerworld, etc.) provides an example of tiered content (free and additional value) that has had success, and there are other B2B publishers have been able to make this work. Other variations on this include research / consulting firms like Nielsen, Gallup, Gartner, eMarketer, Forrester … that produce both free and (very high) premium content.
6 – Outing did not mention it, but there also could be insights from taking a closer look at the robust clusters of business / revenue opportunities have sprung up around free software that is available via “open source” initiatives … of which there are surprising numbers.