Will you pay for content in the future?

15 Jan

The media industry has distributed paid content to audiences since it’s beginning.  Very large media companies have been built around a model which relies on paid subscribers and advertising revenue to generate profit.  Simply put, through history those who have invested in publishing or producing content have almost always done so with a simple focus on seeing a direct (and large) financial return on that investment.

Media moguls made fortunes and acquired significant power and influence as they controlled the distribution of  information to the masses.  They were in a unique position as they shaped the beliefs on which people formed their opinions, and made their decisions .  Print, radio, and television all followed the same general business model and for these businesses all was well (very well).

Then the internet changed things…by providing businesses and consumers with an alternative means of finding the information they wanted.  Within a few short years, a nearly complete directional shift occurred (from push to pull) in the way that people found information they wanted prior to making decisions.  We were no longer confined to just seeing or hearing an editorial, or advertisement and then making our decisions based on very limited and media biased information.  With this shift, businesses flocked to invest much more of their marketing dollars online.  Why not?  They could now reach much more targeted audiences.  Not to mention, for the first time they could measure their advertising results in almost real time.  This however was just the beginning of a tremendous devaluation of  TV, Radio, and Print media.  Media enterprises moved their existing business models onto the web and began to earn even more profits.

Then Web 2.0 changed everything…blogs, podcasts, user generated video, internet radio, article directories, and social networking sites allow anyone and everyone to publish content.  An industry dominated by large companies who were comfortable with relatively little competition is a completely different landscape.  But once again many media enterprises have taken their same old business model and attempted to move it into this vastly different environment.  They are beginning to find that something different is happening.

A recent article by MarketingVox reports,  “After a splashy debut in the publishing world, magazines retooled for the iPad – such as Vanity Fair, Glamour and GQ – are not selling so well.  Digital sales of these pubs dropped toward the end of this year, Women’s Wear Daily reports, based on figures made available to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.”

“The internet is about to swallow the television. Soon hundreds of thousands, and eventually hundreds of millions of viewers around the world will be on a path back from being passive couch potatoes into actively engaged citizens again, the way we were before mass media radio and then television arrived in our homes in the 1920’s, nearly a century ago. Here in the early days of YouTube, BitTorrent, Boxee, Mac Mini media centers, Hulu, Google TV, and the iPad, we are on the edge of moving from Web 2.0, the Read/Write and Social Web, to Web 3.0, ” says futurist John Smart.

Companies who sell paid content are seeing profit declines amidst massive pressure from exponential increases in the quantity and quality of  free content available to viewers and readers.  Beyond that, social media has dramatically changed the way people are spending large amounts of their time.  Instead of simply “consuming,” content many people are now creating it.  Even more people are sharing it and discussing it.

Media companies are currently facing unprecedented challenges in retaining their audiences which is having a devastating effect on their advertising rates, and thereby their profits.  In effort to save themselves many of the old guard have turned to extreme cost cutting measures in a desperate attempt to keep their balance sheets in order. Layoffs, cancelled programs, eliminating print editions of newspapers and magazines are but a few of the signs that clearly point to the fact that a larger and more significant change is required.

Business models must be adapted to this completely new environment, failure to do so will prove costly or fatal.


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