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The NY Post has made a quiet, and very interesting, move. The Post has blocked access to its website via the Safari browser on the iPad. The ONLY way to access Post content is through the iPad app, an app that users must pay for. As of this writing, Post content is still available free via any browser on a PC or mobile phone— but you have to wonder how long that’ll continue.

Of course, the Post is owned by News Corp., which is bullish on charging for digital content.

This is a very interesting move. One of the issues surrounding iPad apps has always been that users can get the same content free via a browser. If browser access is shut off, will that spur app sales? Or, will users go back to their PCs and mobile devices as long as the content is free there? And, will other publishers follow suit and shut off browser access on now only the iPad, but on any device with an Android app?

Stay tuned. The Post very well may have begun a new strategy that could take off.



Just as some publishers are moving to a metered and other pay wall systems, many others — really, the vast majority — aren’t. Reason: All sorts of research shows people, by in large, won’t pay for content.

That’s no surprise. No one has ever paid for content.  They’ve always paid for the convenience of getting their product to their door, whether via newspaper delivery boy or mail. That’s why asking whether someone would pay for content misses the point entirely.

The question should always be: are you willing to pay for the convenience of getting the information you want in whatever form you want it? That form can include mobile phones, tablets, laptops, print, electronic editions and whatever other form comes about.

Framing the question around the convenience of delivery would bring a much different answer. People are all about convenience; that’s why satellite and cable TV continue to do well in a time that no one really needs them. They bundle a large number of services and deliver it to you in a tidy package that’s easy to access.

Publishers should spend more time focusing on the convenience factor. Not only does it bring clarity to how they should position their product offering, but it also will help lead to decisions about what to include in their product bundle.

That’s the question now that Barnes and Noble has announced it will sell its
lowest price e-reader, the Aluratek, for $99. This comes on top of the price
drops for the Kobo, Kindle and Sony products just to name a few.

This all makes sense as the market continues to grow. As e-readers become
cheaper to make, manufacturers can drop price and go after a segment of buyers
who think price, first — and in this economy, who care what the logo says as
long as you get what you want at a price you want to pay?

Does this mean Amazon should be wary? No. The Kindle is a better product and
offers more product than anyone. Their buyers are more likely to be swayed by
product reliability, functionality and depth of offerings. They’ll still be
e-reader king for a long time coming.

But I do wonder: with the Christmas season upon us, will other manufacturers
drop below $99 in an effort to corner that low-priced market?

There’s still lots of talk about whether newspapers can make money by charging for content. There’s a debate on LinkedIn, and Reflections of a Newsosaur recently weighed in, too. The positions are still pretty much the same — newspapers can’t because news isn’t a commodity anymore; or newspapers can only charge for certain, narrow content.

I think something different: I believe newspapers can charge for content if they do so as part of a single subscription strategy. In other words, a newspaper’s valuable subscriber gets all news on all devices free — in print, online access, mobile, e-readers (eventually) and other e-pub applications (like Adobe Air). One price and they can access all the content they want, whenever they want, from a number of different devices easily and conveniently. That’s the marketing strategy — ease and convenience.  Convenience, nowadays, resonates with the public more than the news we provide. We should emphasis that through this ease and convenience, we’re making it easier for our subscribers to live their lives, because we keep them informed, help them save money (through coupons) and keeping them abreast of news at it breaks.

Everyone else has to get a subscription of some kind. If they don’t, they don’t get to access our products.

The problem with this strategy is it would require all publishers to play along. That will be a huge challenge. But for the sake of the industry, publishers need to find a legal way to get together and talk about how to make this happen.

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone.

What are they thinking?

Wireless companies are rushing to offer low-cost netbooks tied to expensive data plans and just as expensive gadgets that, at the end of the day, result in a netbook that costs more than Dell’s high-end Alienware laptop.  Just take a look at what Verizon is doing. The $199 netbook price looks real appealing at first. But you have to sign a two-year contract with a data package that will cost about $1,000. Do the math and you quickly go, huh?

I love  netbooks. I think these light and easy-to-use devices have a real niche market. College students can use them to take notes in class and read material away from class (the 10.1 inch screens are much easier to read that the 6″ screen most e-readers come with).  Since they’re so light, they’re easy to cart anywhere with wireless access, and it’s becoming easier by the day to find a free wireless hookup. And I also like the video and color you can’t get with the e-reader on the American market.

But  I also don’t think netbooks are going to drive mobile data adoption because the public, after the initial infactuation, will look a the overall costs and go, “No Way.”

So that’s why netbooks might have harder time growing market share. And that should concern publishers, because these nifty little devices hold a lot of promise. There could even come a time when publishers and wireless carriers form partnerships to help grow market share for both — a publisher has a local army of carriers that can deliver the devices, and the carrier has tremendous marketing muscle. That would be something worth talking about.

The views on this blog are mine alone

On Monday, I noted how the Wall Street Journal and New York Times were the only two media companies that can make money with their digital offerings. So what do the rest of us do? It’s fairly simply. Come up with a subscription plan that includes all of your print and digital offerings.

Newspapers now have four platforms for information distribution — print, online, mobile, and, shortly e-readers. For those that don’t want to jump into the e-reader fray, netbooks might be an option.

Many media companies make the mistake of looking at each of these products separately. They charge a subscription price for newspapers, might charge on an IPhone app, are trying to charge for online, and then will hit customers again with an e-reader charge. Users aren’t going to pay four time for information. But they might pay for a bundled package that gives them what they want on the platforms they feel like using at the time.

On Sunday mornings, I want my strong cup of coffee, my recliner, and my newspaper. When I’m on the run, I have my phone for quick bits of information (sports scores, stock prices, weather) and breaking news. I use my laptop scour my favorite local news site for updates in the evening, and I can envision using an e-reader to get subscriptions to my favorite newspapers and magazines.

All media companies need is a bundling plan that makes sense. That’s where the money is.

The views on this blog are mine and mine alone.

Ruppert Murdoch says the Wall Street Journal will soon start charging for all of its content. Good for them. I hope the rest of the industry doesn’t rush head long into a scheme that won’t work for a majority of digital outlets.

I say “for them” because the WSJ is one of two newspapers in the country that could make money by charging for its content. The other: the New York Times. All of the other newspapers: no way.

Here’s why. The WSJ and NYT each produce exclusive content not available anywhere else. The WSJ’s financial reporting is the best there is, and the information and insights important to businesses and financiers around the globe. The NYT  is, arguably, the last great American newspaper. With 1,200 reporters it can still cover national and international news like no one else. People want to read their investigative piece, and their lineup of columnists like Friedman, Brooks, Goodman and Rich are unparalled.

If each start to charge, will their page views and visits decrease? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t care. These paying customers are likely to be more engaged with the digital product and more valuable to advertisers. These two sites  will likely shed drive by visits who come for one piece of information and leave the site. Those visits have little value to advertisers.

Can others follow the lead? Doubtful. To make money by charging for information, you need something that’s compelling, can’t be found anywhere else, and can attract a cadre of paying customers through a national audience. Kristof’s columns on how some governments use rape to wage war against its citizens meet that definition. A story on whether a local school board votes to put a levy on the ballot does not. That might hold intense interest about a few hundred people in the local community; Kristof might hold interest among tens of thousands. You can easily see which makes more money.

So, what should the industry do? That’s the topic for the next blog