In a wide-ranging presentation on Innovation's Global Report on Innovations in Newspapers, Juan Senor and other Innovation partners said whether it is on iPad, paper, or online, publishers have a great opportunity to make it all pay, but it requires imagination, experimentation, and above all good journalism.
The Second Life?
Senior said that the iPad indeed offers publishers a shot at bringing its readers a unique experience normally associated with print: "iPad and tablet devices give us a chance to recapture the concept of telling a story with a beginning and an end, something that is lost in the Internet where stories run infinitely," Senor said.
But publishers have to be clever, he said, creating new grammar and narratives for content. And on the iPad, there will be news "you can read, feel and touch."
So far the traditional publishing world has fallen well short of expectations by users, Senor said. He presented a study that showed some of the world's most renowned newspapers rating, on average, 2.5 out of 5 in delivering a good iPad experience. Even digitally-savvy Wired Magazine received a rating of 2.
"That is because we are mostly doing iPad as a PDF. It must be treated as a different medium," said Senor. "And you cannot just shovel video onto it trying to create a 'newspaper on steroids.' ... We have to start playing with this, doing demos and experimenting instead of just rushing things out there that will ultimately fail."
The key is creating truly interactive content, such as infographics, unique video, slide shows, caricatures and art.
Crucially for publishers, he said, "iPad means iPay. You need to produce more for those who pay and less for those who do not pay. I think we have learned that free can be very expensive."
In pricing strategies, Senor issued a warning: "Apple wants to become the world's kiosk. If we lose pricing and customer data, what's left for us? I love what they have done, but we have to aggressively negotiate with them. There are huge implications of this... We cannot suffer the same fate as the music industry where they killed the CD."
Senor demonstrated NewsSlate, developed by Innovation & Bermer Labs, a foldable portable device that represents what he believes the iPad will morph into in the near future.
Diego Cenzano, Director of Biko, Spain, explained how publishers have to evolve and adapt to the realities of publishing online and on emerging devices on a daily basis.
He sees three emerging positions that will play a significant role in providing content: 1) newsfeed technicians to deal and deliver content and information, 2) iPad editors, and 3) graphic technical developers to work on the presentation of news and design.
Of course newsrooms are reorganising all over the world, and one of the largest transformations in Europe recently has taken place here in Hamburg at Axel Springer's Hamburger Abendblatt.
Claus Strunz, editor-in-chief of the paper, elaborated on the changes and transitions the newspaper company went through. "We transformed a traditional newspaper with a history of 60 years of success into a multimedia company which will have 60 more years of success ahead," he said, proudly demonstrating his 15-month "post-transition" feeling.
The Hamburger Abendblatt management was convinced that they had to start from scratch which turned into a process involving a lot of "blood, sweat and tears," Strunz said. Employees not "fit" for the future had to be let go and workflows reinvented radically. Today, despite an average decline in print circulation of 4 percent, the newspaper boasts 2.8 million loyal daily readers of its vast portfolio of print/digitgal products, a significant increase compared to its prior strategy.
For his colleagues facing the challenge of transition, Strunz has one strong recommendation: "Don't forget the reader -- he's the key to success, so involve him."
Paper as a premium
Proving that there is room for growth in print, Flavio Pestana, Editor-in-chief of Brazil's Diario de Sao Paulo, shared how his newspaper made the most of switching to a tabloid format and other radical changes in the newsroom. "It's clear the industry is having a difficult time, in many cases losing relevance and advertising share."
He admitted that it was a risk to change to a tabloid format as the paper is synonymous with high quality in its market. But by offering micro briefs, more analysis vs. breaking news, basically "not telling what happened the day before, but why it happened," Pestana said the rewards have clearly outweighed the risk.
Senor said he believes paper will become the premium product in the future for publishers, and online and mobile the mass medium. "We believe there will indeed be a flip and you need to charge more for your paper product. Why not more by a multiple of 5, from 50 cents to 2.50? That is cheaper than a grand latte at Starbucks."
But like the iPad, your print product must also be presented in a different way.
'Show me the money'
Carlos Campos, Director, Innovation Media Consulting Group, said publishers have to move past the debate of whether or not to charge for content and focus "on what content we should offer that they will pay for."
The key, he said, is to charge for content that is scarce. How do publishers find out what is scarce? "Get intimate with your readers. Create audience profiles. Put content into context. Offer message richness. Location-based services."
Most importantly, invest in good journalism and you will get good business in return.