« Why Newsweek Magazine Failed | Home | Breaking News: Newsweek Sold »

Coffee and Subscriptions: A Package Deal

Posted on Monday, July 12, 2010 at 2:58 PM

An experimental strategy for publishers.

By Kevin Roberts

In order to thrive in today's participation economy, traditional media outlets like magazines and newspapers will need transformational ideas. Especially when it comes to creating revenue in an age of free content.

Of all companies, Starbucks might have happened upon just such an idea. Next month, the coffee giant will begin offering free wi-fi in all of its American locations. No big deal in this -- but soon, Starbucks customers will also have unrestricted access to a variety of pay sites, including the Wall Street Journal.

This is an innovative way to avoid having to institute the dreaded "pay wall," without giving content away gratis. Publishers get paid for their content, they get audience for their advertisers, Starbucks gets to offer an exclusive service that will surely help sell more coffee, and customers save potentially hundreds of dollars in subscription fees.

As we've seen, the emergence of the Participation Economy has been both good and bad for the media industry.

Today, anyone with an Internet connection can access a wide array of content -- from the Washington Post to their friend's latest blog post, from the Drudge Report to the Colbert Report -- and decide for themselves what's worth their time. In fact, only 7 percent of Americans get their news from a single platform.

At the same time, technologies like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter allow every connected person to create, distribute, and comment on media without getting out of their pajamas.

The media, in all its various forms, has never been more engagingly diverse. But traditional media outlets, as we know, are in the lurch. The truth is, one way or another, high-quality content will need to be paid for.

Figuring out how to do that, without disrupting the dynamic media environment that free content has created, will require wild experimentation. If content producers are going to discover the breakthrough ideas that will keep mainstream media thriving for years to come, they need to adopt a philosophy of fail fast, learn fast, and fix fast.

Kevin Roberts is the CEO worldwide of The Lovemarks Company, Saatchi & Saatchi, www.saatchikevin.com.

Add your comment.

« Why Newsweek Magazine Failed | Top | Breaking News: Newsweek Sold »