FTW Media

Thoughts about New/Social Media

Lessons learned from the FIPP

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Everything old is new again, as Rupert Murdoch, often looked to as the Warren Buffet of the publishing world, aims to once again charge for online content. “That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the Wall Street Journal’s experience,” Murdoch said two weeks ago, adding that moves to carry out this paid content model could be done within the next 12 months.

This move — a complete U-turn from the decision to remove the paid-subscription model of the New York Times in 2007 — is not surprising, given the crashing advertising dollars brought upon by the global economic crisis. “Eyeballs”, once a golden word cherished by publishers, have now become a tainted word that alludes to publishers’ naivete in making content freely available on the Web.

“Pay for content” was also a running theme at the International Ferderation for Printed Periodicals (FIPP) World Magazine Congress, which ran on May 5 and 6 in London, which addressed the concerns of magazine publishers in moving onto the Web. MediaGuardian summed up the key talking points of the event, including a point made by Roberto Civita, chairman and chief executive, Abril Group, Brazil. Civita emphasised that it wasn’t enough to just put print articles online and charge for them.

“I insist that we are going to have to end up charging for our content wherever we possibly can,” Civita said in his address, but advocated that websites concentrate on content that cannot be replicated online. “The content that sits there and does not make any noise just doesn’t work anymore.”

That statement is obvious to many, but a quick glance through the websites of major magazines and you’ll notice that many of them still rely on putting the print product online, rather than creating new content.  That the “new content” focuses on rich media is a given — readers expect audio and video-enhanced stories from Web publishers — but what many local publishers miss out in the rush to keep up with the times is the emphasis on socially engaging media, where users use websites as platforms to form communities.

The Internet is not an escape

Among the more insightful comments at the Congress were given by Didier Quillot, chief executive of Lagardere Active, the digital arm of Lagardere, the French owners of Elle. He accepts the fact that the Internet won’t be a main revenue generator: “The internet is nice but it will stay small, it will do somewhere between 5% of our business at worst and 20% at best, but no more. Internet, at best, will just compensate for the decline of revenue to me from banner circulation. Internet is not an escape,” he said.

He also stressed on the need for publishers to have joint print/web publications, develop new mobile platforms and branch out into events, B2B businesses and customer publishing brand extensions. Though the online version of Elle France has about 2.5m unique users each month , the audience was not enough to sustain the title, he said. This caused them to create a blogging network around the site to increase user engagement.

He also said that Elle has partnered with local specialists in Japan to develop an e-commerce business, he said, and would look to forge partnerships with mobile service providers to generate revenue through phones and build applications for iPhones and similar devises.

The main takeaway from these two keynotes is this: eyeballs alone won’t pay for the price of content, but the definition of “content” has to evolve beyond words, video and audio. It’s about providing a service for readers to interact with each other. Readers these days expect, and want, to be involved and engage with the publication and that includes its writers, producers, and editors.

This is what networks like TWiT, MarketWatch, and The Forum by CNN facilitates in creating its chatrooms and communities — and magazines wishing to go online would do well to follow their lead in developing their web strategies.

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Written by John Lim

May 13, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Posted in New Media

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