The Future of News & Digital Content: Mobile, Social, Apps, Ad-Supported or Paid?

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June 9 -10 2011, WAN-IFRA‘s 2011 Newsroom Summit took place in Zurich, Switzerland. From the summary of presentations, here’s Gerd Leonhard’s topic:

“People of the screen consume information differently,” says Gerd Leonhard, CEO of The Futures Agency: you cannot think of them as you think of people of the book. They pay differently, too, and share information liberally: you cannot control what people do on the internet, Leonhard says.

Old concepts of copyright no longer make sense, he says. The internet is a “giant copy machine” and rather than thinking about how to stop copying, you have to sell something that can’t be copied. “What can’t be copied is worth a lot more than the copies,” he believes.

“The most important thing today is curation,” he says, bringing the best out of the constant flow of information. “Very few will pay for the flow, but they will pay for curation and context.” It’s the same concept as that behind bottled water, he says: the content is the same but the packaging is different. The fragmentation of our world is only going to continue to grow, he believes.

Building off curation and filtering, the sort of things that can make money are social context, intelligent aggregation and sense making, assisted serendipity, timeliness and personal relevance, and a guarantee of quality and trust. Think about how to create value: the way to compete with free content is to fight back with value.

“I see a great future in freemium, it’s extremely valuable. Let’s get people in and then make them actually convert,” Leonhard says.

The old and the new – MTV and YouTube, for example – can coexist, one a paid-for, professional, edited TV channel, the other free, chaotic, open online video platform. In the same way, the rise of the Huffington Post doesn’t mean the end of The New York Times.

However, digital is definitely the way forward, Mr Leonhard believes. “The demise of the physical product is certain, in all areas.” Mobile should come first in publishers’ thinking, he says.

In directly charging for digital content, the pricing is crucial. “If it cost 10cents to buy a song, would there be piracy?” Mr Leonhard asks. “No, it wouldn’t be worth it.” He cites Lady Gaga’s move to sell her album digitally for 99 cents for a day as an example of successful pricing: demand was so great that it crashed Amazon’s servers.
WAN-IFRA Calendar of Events: https://www.wan-ifra.org/events

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