How to sell news on the web: A checklist
1. You cannot charge for such commoditized content as world, national, business, sports and entertainment news.
2. You might be able to charge for local coverage, if it is sufficiently intensive, comprehensive and exclusive to make to make it required reading for residents of the targeted community.
3. In the business-to-business realm, you probably can charge users for exclusive information that helps them make money, avoid losing money or, ideally, both at the same time.
4. You probably can charge consumers for two things: (a) exclusive entertainment content and (b) authoritative information that helps them hang on to more of their money.
Astute readers will note that much of the information publishers would like to sell does not fall into any of the above categories. This suggests that newspapers and broadcasters who are keen on peddling content need to focus on creating saleable product before they begin trying to charge for it.
I came to the above conclusions after rating content subjectively on a scale of 1 to 5 according eight attributes I felt would affect its value. The attributes are as follows:
Uniqueness – How likely are you to find the content someplace else? The more unique the content is, the more points it gets for the purposes of this analysis.
Routineness – Is the content a special class of information or such common stuff as weather reports, stock quotes or sports scores? Special content gets high points; ordinary stuff gets no points.
Time sensitivity – Will the value of the information deteriorate over time? Examples might be the exact moment coveted concert tickets go on sale – or fresh information that might affect the opening price of a stock. The more time-sensitive the information is, the more points it gets. The more it can be delivered on the mobile platform, the more value it has.
Business urgency – Is this information that will help someone in business make (or avoid losing) money? The more mission-critical the content would be to a business person, the more points it merits.
Targetability – How tightly targeted is the information to the interests of the consumer? The more customized the information can be, the more points it deserves.
Entertainment value – Unique entertainment content – like the first opportunity to hear a popular singer’s new recording or the sneak peek of a movie trailer – gets extra credit.
Localness – The closer that unique content is to home, the more it is worth, especially if it is exclusive.
Home economics – If it helps consumers save money – like the refrigerator ratings in Consumer Reports – content will earn top points.
Put them all together and you get the graph below. As you can see, the sweet spot for business-to-business publishers is depicted in blue. The consumer-oriented content most likely to fetch premium payments is shown in orange.
The opportunity seems to be bigger for B2B than B2C content, but operators of the websites of the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times already knew that.