Evolving sustainable business models in the digital space is a point that pricks a lot of media companies, especially news and content driven web publishers. News websites have been in the news for all the wrong reasons, and it has been said enough that print publishers unless they adopt to new media will soon be on their last legs as an establishment.
Models discussed however did not show any pertinent innovation or creativity. The juggle has been about how to make more advertising money or the perennial ‘to pay or not to pay’ debate. It certainly seems like not many have made any significant inroads in terms of newer advertising models. And whether paid subscription will work is something best debated (like any other) in hindsight I believe.
In my last post about the future of digital advertising, I wrote these set of lines – Digital is an all encompassing medium. It is informative and information driving. It is branding based, brand position based. It is eyeballs and clicks. More importantly it is also commerce enabling.
What I did not write was that post’s original title (working title sorts) which said Advertising Online is Dead. I don’t quite agree with that title myself, so it never made it to WATBlogs feeds, but the thought behind is on the lines of the news story that I read today, the story of Telegraph looking to move away from just advertising and developing a new approach to its online business.
A New Story
Telegraph Media Group’s digital editor has signalled a strategic change for the publisher’s online business, moving away from chasing the maximum number of web users to focus on the “three Cs”: content, commerce and clubs.
What this essentially means is that Telegraph’s online business will try and push advertising, paid membership and e-commerce as revenue streams. Which is not a big step seen in isolation. Almost every media company in India for instance launch their own portals which try to push all of this into their fold as well. What’s interesting though with Telegraph’s move is that all three of these will be interlinked.
I will quote the Guardian’s article again to explain this better.
“Apart from the bigger channels, micro-areas are additional important opportunities. We are, for example, interested in gardening,” says Roussel. “Here we created and integrated an e-commerce product with a company called Crocus. We write the editorial content we have always written, but now you have the opportunity to buy the products directly.”
And they plan to do this over various verticals like Technology, Dating, Fashion, Finance and more. Add to this scope for paywalls for certain segments the most likely being services like dating. And on the face of things Telegraph seems like it has a much better plan of using the web than most other content publishers online. (My view to be honest can be a bit biased, because I am running a similar plan on a site that I operate since sometime).
In some way it works like merchandising, except that here the products are from other vendors and the publishers product actually is the content.
A Better Model?
A model like this in my opinion will also favour the publisher when it comes to leveraging their largest traffic driver – search engines. More importantly though, and we are going to back to my earlier bit about online advertising here, it presents a complete use of the medium – from content to commerce.
A big issue however, especially in case of telegraph is that of disclosure and integrity. It is probably a reason why many news agencies might not have thought of this approach earlier. You can’t sell someone’s product with content that encourages buying it right next to it and on top of it not disclosing your vendor partner.
Perhaps keeping commerce as a part of advertising itself can be an answer to this. Though I am not sure about it as of now. Again, how exactly is Telegraph planning to handle multiple vendors for the same product?
Nevertheless, this is a very interesting twist to the news and digital saga that a lot of folks like us have been endlessly reporting since the past one year. Again, a very important point is the guts and gumption a firm is showing to move beyond numbers on the web. And that is a very very big step. It s effect will ripple not just in the newspaper industry, but web publishers in general. It will also have a huge impact if the move works on how advertising happens on the web.
Commerce and content coming together will ask for a whole new level of skill set from the staff at web firms. No immediate impact of course, but the course for the coming decade of business online might have just been charted. We are breaking new paths on the web.