The COST-WORTH-PAY content triangle: 6 lessons from #INMAec

Today and tomorrow, the ‘fine fleur’ of the Media & Entertainment industry from Europe and beyond gathers in Berlin for the annual International News Media Association’s European Conference (follow #inmaec on Twitter). As one might expect, the morning sessions all revolved around the biggest challenge the Media & Entertainment industry is facing today: is digital content worth paying for?
Solving the ‘golden triangle’ – consisting of ‘how much does it cost’, ‘what is it worth’ and ‘what is the audience willing to pay for it’ – seems indeed to have been on every media mind for a few years now. And no, no magic solution was found yet, but thanks to insightful and dead-honest cases brought by Yasmin Namini (NYTimes), Christian Stavik (Fædrelandsvennen), Isabelle André (CEO at Le Monde Interactif), Astrid Jørgensen (ekstrabladet.dk) and many others, some first lessons of how to solve the puzzle clearly emerge.

1. Failing forward

As rightfully suggested by Jochen Volkers of the Pilot Agency in one of the opening sessions, thefreedom of failure‘ should be carved in stone in every media organization’ culture. It is of paramount importance that the European culture and its media outlets adopt the old but super-relevant Edison quote: ‘I did not fail, I just found 10,000 ways of how not to do it‘. That is exactly which the music industry refused to do in the past decade and we all know how that ended.

2. Test test test

Test tv screenIn today’s economy you cannot take risks without minimalizing risks. And that is where testing and research come in. All cases presented this morning were user-centric by nature: tracking behavioral (big) data in combination with continuous audience understanding. It is all about listening and opening up to your users.
As mentioned by Le Monde, AB testing to reduce risks is one of many options, soft-launching, surveying and qualitatively researching as mentioned by Ekstrabladet is another. Either way, the main message is to keep collecting and analyzing consumer facts.
Don’t forget: The focus here lies on the actionable insights derived from this rather than on the mass collection of consumer data itself, of course. Which requires specialists.

3. The bipolar consumer officer

With classical segmentation being under pressure, having little or no predictive value and ‘granular segmentation‘ (i.e. segments of only a handful of similar users) being a very costly and analytically demanding solution, the question emerges: who should your research and tests focus on?
Well, NYTimes rightfully focusses on understanding and customizing to the lower end of the market (people who want the content for free) on the one hand and the higher end of the market on the other hand (people who pay the premium price). Create entry level products on the one end and premium service products on the other end. It is a bipolar marketing strategy: focus on the behavior and perceptions of these two extremes, as all other users will be in the middle of the spectrum.

4. Millennial marketing

Being digital natives, Gen Y should be your core target to monetize and capitalize on. We all know Gen Y is an increasingly important segment in all sectors, but even more so in the media and content industry. The average online subscriber of Le Monde Interactif is 12 years younger than the print subscriber for instance. Christian Stavik of Fædrelandsvennen shared that he loses 5 print subscribers a day but wins 4 online subscribers a day.
This does not come as a surprise of course: this is the generation which brought down the music industry and is the spoiled Internet generation which got everything for free (legally or illegally). It is the generation that owns desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets and actually uses them all at the same time.
So if you want your content outlet to be future-proof, target this audience rather than the older (and more loyal) audience!

5. Tweak or die

One of the most salient lessons from the publishers who have been experimenting thoroughly with paid content models is: agility and flexibility. All the cases had this in common: be obsessed with the details and keep tweaking, re-tweaking and adapting as rapidly as possible. Do not go for one solution fitting all users. Segment your offer rather than your users. Go to the market with several products, services and value propositions at the same time and see what works out best.

6. Digital storytelling

Of course, content and context are king in media: what, when, where and on which device are people interested to consume content? And more importantly: how can media owners create the perfect content experience? What is the perfect product people are willing to pay for? Frode Eilertsen from Schibsted puts it rather provocatively: ‘How come most news sites look like they were been created on WordPress?’. A bold statement that actually summarizes well that multimedial thinking is not about technology, but about changing the minds of the journalists who create the content. Content should be designed with a digital experience-centric story in mind from the start, rather than be created in separate editorial silos. That and only that will create a brand experience worth paying for.
So, yes, there is hope for the content industry, no doubt about that. All cases showed some comforting numbers and graphs that solve part of the COST-WORTH-PAY-triangle, but they all had these 6 important lessons in common.
So stop thinking and start doing or, as Carsten Erdmann from the Berliner Morgenpost put it more eloquently: ‘Move away from the comfort zone and take the hour-by-hour challenge in the digital era‘.
Stop Thinking Start Doing

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