Wednesday, October 12, 2005

'Premium' Content - A Flawed Cost/Benefit Analysis?

I have mentioned here before that i think charging people to see the op-ed pieces in the NZ Herald is a dumb idea and has been mentioned at plenty of other places as well (i'd do one of those trackback thingys but i haven't figured out how to do it yet...). I found a chart on Reddit that shows the readership of the NY Times op-ed'ers such as Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman. I used to skim read these guys on a fairly regular basis - not because i agreed with them all the time, i just like to challenge my own assumptions regularly. Obviously, as soon as i had to pay to read them, i found other, free, op-eds or blogs to read that i rated highly ('highly' normally means well-written and at least superficially rational arguments). Is this good for the NY Times? i don't think so, whereas a good op-ed piece might help me to believe that maybe a company isn't completely staffed by idiots and hence catches my eyeball regularly for the all important ad revenue, now i completely ignore it: there's plenty of other information out there.
That's what really annoys me about 'premium' content, you're killing your one, valuable internet resource - dependable viewer repetition. Smart sites should be able to use this to tempt you into other (revenue generating) parts of the site or unobtrusively advertise useful things/info to you (and i don't mean annoying pop-ups that cover the damn story...). Heck, even the demographic info i provide to view content has value (a bit like a bar of gold has value...) to a company that they should be able to use.
For this reason, i believe that op-eds and corporate blogs should be analysed/promoted in the same way as traditional advertising budgets (and no, i'm not saying corporate propaganda, those blogs won't fare well in the short term anyway). The single reason marketing depts exist in companies is to boost market share/revenue. The normal (crap) way of doing this is to assault you with TV ads and boring billboards or worst of all, direct snail-mail spam in the misguided hope that 'mind share' will magically translate into revenue.
Why don't they use op-eds/blogs? The metrics are easier to measure, actually mean something and may shock/horror, allow you to start seeing your customers as potential 'partners engaging in a fair transaction to mutual benefit' rather than suckers that need to be seperated from their cash ASAP before someone else does it. To analyse op-eds as 'only' a potential revenue stream is a flawed assumption. It is not reasonable and is downright foolish. I would hazard a fairly predictable downturn in reader numbers for the Herald's op-ed section with time and so they should - the Herald is competing with every other news website on the planet for my time, YOU HAVE TO EARN IT!!

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