The future of news, Part II: Get smart with your delivery

It’s refreshing to read a news story about someone who gets where the focus should be on charging for news. Today, it’s Wall Street Journal’s Digital Media Network President Gordon McLeod, who goes into some details of the company’s plan to start charging for WSJ’s mobile version at the end of October.

Read the story here:

For McLeod, the decision was a ‘no brainer.’ I’m surprised more publisher haven’t slapped their heads and said ‘duh’ in the past five years. You’d think they learned their lessons after slapping their content up on web sites many years ago.

The frustration with the current thinking in the industry is that content pricing needs to be linked. If you want to read our web site for free, buy our paper. This strategy leaves consumers with limited choices, and with consumers becoming more selective with their money, it also leaves them the option of not choosing  you.

However, news companies are still so eager to jump on new technologies and offer them up to consumers at no charge. Why is that? Most possibly, news exectives still have the myopic view that their core product is a newspaper, radio station ot TV outlet. Basically, that’s would be the same as the milk industry saying the core product is the 1-gallon jug, and giving milk away in 1/2-pint cartons.

At some point, the news industry needs to slap its collective head and say “Wait. Our core business is NEWS, not paper!”

News content – credible and verified  (which we call great journalism) – is gold. Readership studies have shown that. For centuries this has been delivered to consumers in the form of a rolled-up paper, or as an audio or video message that is dispensed through a device like a radio or television (usually at no cost to the consumer, except for the hardware).

In the new millenium, those devices have been replaced with smaller, more personal technologies. Mass audiences are being replaced by niche microcommunities. As we have seen in the cell phone industry, people are willing to pay for services (incoming and outgoing phone calls) that were at no or little cost in previous technologies (land-line phones).

As I’ve espoused in previous postings. if you give your individual readers what they specifically want, in a timeframe they demand, and in a format that is most convenient to them, they will be willing to pay a premium price.

The money’s in the delivery of content, not the content itself.

Instead of forcing paywalls on Web sites or making customers pay for things they do not want, customize your delivery methods and charge for that. There is certainly nothing wrong with charging for a mobile product, or a Kindle product, or even something as small as e-mail blasts. Scott Anderson point out in the book “Free” that  consumers are willing to spend for products and services they do not have the time or expertise to handle themselves.

Or as McLeod says, it’s ‘smart pricing.’

It’s time the entire industry got smart.