Structural problems are emerging in the printed press industry and affecting its business model. A result of new consumer trends, decreasing number of points of sale, the sensibility of newspaper sales vis à vis special offers, and the high percentage of contents produced from agency releases or inserts. The “keep up to date and know more” industry, however, will never enter in crisis. Hence, all that needs to be done is to adopt a new approach, stopping short-sighted debates about printed information vs e-information and start adopting the new mindsets emerging from putting the customer at the heart of the innovation process.
Some industries have problems. Cyclical problems that disappear when demand picks up, or structural problems affecting the business model. The latter affects the printed press.
This industry is battling against a tide of trends that are here to stay: the impact of new communication channels, the co-diffusion of ideas, and the environmental sustainability affected, for example, by paper consumption.
Another factor is the closure of many newsstands. Buying a newspaper is sometimes quite an achievement.
A third factor that disperses concern is the high influence of special offers on newspaper sales. Is the core element – information – worth so little?
And with turnover plummeting, which publishers can afford to pay journalists to conduct in-depth research into a subject? What percentage of our newspapers is based on press agency notes or inserts?
Just as I announced, back in April 2008, that the launch of the eBook Kindle1 would start off a revolution in cultural retail, I now suggest that the printed press business model has been mortally wounded.
Press: bad, curiosity: good
People have an innate desire to know what is happening in our local and global village. In psychology, the factor responsible for curiosity and the desire for news is known as “novelty seeking”. David De Lorenzo, Professor of Human Genetics and Nutrigenomics in the School of Medicine at Lleida University, explains “it has been observed that there is a considerable genetic component, i.e. children inherit it from their parents. Consequently it is controlled, at least partly, by our genes”.
The “keep up to date and know more” industry will never be in crisis, but the printed press sector might – and perhaps permanently.
Technology is not the problem
Focussing merely on the debate between information on paper or the internet would imply a lack of foresight. Market studies have shown that we are informed on many news coming out in a certain week (albeit superficially), but are unable to say whether we found it in the press, on the radio, on TV or in the internet.
If we set customers at the heart of our innovation, they might ask for:
· the company to keep them up to date.
· not get charged for things they are not interested in.
· to allow for flexibility each day.
· access to their information wherever and whenever.
· to be environmentally sustainable.
Let’s imagine that I register with a company that supplies information. I tell it about my likes and dislikes, my occupation and my stage in life (for example, if I have two small children). I also tell it about my hobbies and, of course, my bank account and credit card. The company then gives me an RFID card and an access code for all the media: not just for computers but also for 3G phones. At the end of the day I can adapt it to my preferences.
If I feel like reading “my newspaper” whilst having breakfast in a café, I can pop over to a newsstand nearby (not necessarily always the same one), swipe my card through a terminal and print “my” newspaper: with fewer pages but completely personalised.
If I said I wanted to improve my English, part of the newspaper would be in that language. The articles would then not be translated, but bought from another publisher they have an arrangement with. My newspaper could also be a combination of things produced by different information companies.
Of course I would not have to pay at the newsstand: they would have an arrangement with my information supplier.
When travelling on the underground, I would receive the news I need on my 3Gphone (after identifying myself). I might read about a recommended concert and buy tickets. Later I’d say if I liked it. This would help tailor the system to my preferences and fine-tune its recommendations.
And over the weekend, the newsstand at the beach I usually go to would have a copy of that full-colour magazine about my favourite hobby waiting for me. And all this would be charged to the same account twice a month.
Source: Distribución Actualidad, the spanish magazine of retail
(nº 414, April 2010)
1. See Martínez-Ribes, Ll. (2008), “La innovación en el retail cultural ha llegado. Interpretando el Kindle de Amazon”. Distribución actualidad, No. 389, p. 44.