If the package won’t sell, how about the pieces?

Here’s a fun fact I discovered this week:

Chicago Tribune’s paid circulation (as of  Aug. 2010) : 452,144.

Followers of the Tribune’s ColonelTribune Twitter feed (as of Sept. 21, 2010): 848.086.

Can this example tell us anything…besides that we’ve missed another revenue opportunity?

We’re looking at a prime example of niche communities developing in the cyber world. More people are attracted to a breaking news feed (that has a virtual personality) than a one-size-fits-all product. Maybe, in future development of news products for iPad,  tablet PCs, next-gen mobile devices, etc., companies should look at splitting up the package and letting the reader decide which pieces best serve his needs.

Instead of an iPad version of a newspaper’s Web site, maybe serve up separate products based on the elements of your paper…breaking news, local news, sports, business, entertainment, lifestyles, etc. Offer them either individually or develop a user-customizable package. Sell it the way a 7-Eleven would sell individual cans of pop out of a 12-pack.

This may also be a more cost-effective way to create an iPad product that doesn’t necessarily re-invent the user’s experience with the product.

I’m sure the Tribune Company would love to find a way to convert those 850,000 followers into paying customers. My mantra was and continues to be: If you can give your readers what they want, when they want it and in the format they prefer, they will be willing to pay for it.

And … if it’s as good as what the Colonel has been offering so far … they may be willing to stop getting it for free.

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