Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Industry - Same Shit...Different Decade

Facebook has renewed something in me; call it entrepreneurial curiosity or a mid-life crisis, I was sent an event invite to a panel discussion on the fate/state of magazine publishing and its future in the digital age.
Now this "alliance" who put the program together has been around for a while and I remember them from my earlier years when I was all about the business of Black media. They'll remain nameless cuz I don't feel like dissin' them publicly. But what I will diss, is the short sightedness of their lack-luster panel of magazine/online professionals (wow, I'm about to get mean. I can always tell..I apologize in advance cuz I may need a job from one of yall in the future...)

As a marketing professional working in "the business" for almost 20 years, I had expected a high-level discussion on trends and strategies prevalent in the world of online publishing specifically as it relates to synergies and integration between print and online properties.
Boy was I mistaken and shame on me for thinking I would get anymore out of it than I did.

A question fielded from the audience was dismissed without serious consideration and I believe it warranted further foresight by the panelist. Here it is...(paraphrased of course):
Q - How can I as a writer get paid by companies like yours for my content? Why don't you charge people for site access?
A1 - We only accept quality work.
A1 - I pay my writers
A2 - No one is going to pay for content
A2 - It's like TV, no one will pay
A3 - Many have tried to charge and many have failed. The only successful ones are sites like the Wall Street Journal, et al...

OK, here's where I'd like to stop because even re-telling this account is making me ill and pissed off. The TV comment got to me. No one will pay for TV? Er um what in the hell do they call cable TV? I get a bill every month for watching and although my payments are late most of the time, I DO pay for content. I pay just for the chance to catch a good movie, original cable programming and hello! RECEPTION damnit!
So I imagine that sometime ago; let's say over 40 years ago, this same conversation happened, in some boardroom between short sighted television producers, writers, etc. And now look where we are...
So I am not going to leave this post without a suggestion to those web publishers who have doubts about paid content:

  • Create an area (could be sponsored) of your site that is exclusive.
  • Access to this area is available via paid membership.
  • Types of exclusive content: celebrity skype chats, photos, music/literary/book previews, webinars, sneek peeks, contests, show tickets, product offers, widgets/tools, etc

How's that sound? Crazy?? This doesn't mean that your entire site is a paid content model, but it does add value and affinity to your brand if you can back up your claim as a "#1" resource for all things [fill in blank].

I wish that we, as business professionals, would stop with our limited thinking and open our minds to the fact that almost anything is possible. And to paraphrase one of the panelists from last night, if ["Copernicus was in danger of being executed"] for his ideas, then I say let's tempt "death" together by thinking outrageously about the future of this medium.

Whew! I did it!
Lemme know what you think!
The Katalist

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