This is the first of 5 from our series Introducing the The Newscene , leading up to our official beta launch on Monday 29st. We will be releasing a new part every day, so watch this space & follow us.
Right after we pass the breakeven point on jrnal, I decide to spend some time with publishers. I wanted to hang out around their newsrooms and offices, discuss their business, not just to see what we can do together but to truly understand what their business is about, what are the challenges, etc.
The same things kept coming up
Publishers have serious business model issues. We all know that, but it’s far, far worse than I could have imagined.
The tech used is not suited for their business. Apart from big names with lots of resources, most publishers are cobbling together multiple tools not made for either their business or their journalistic mission.
Even if the industry is recovering from its original sin, putting their content online for free, too many publications say the exact same things with the same words, while too few publications really provide added value.
The competition today are social networks, Porn, Netflix, Spotify, Twitch, Fortnite, Youtube, etc. and viewing the staggering number of their audience, selling subscriptions requires a serious leap of changes in paradigm and the philosophy behind newsroom organisation.
As publishers’ old model is completely “disrupted”, maybe it’s time to approach their business like any other good consumer product: Serving their readers with high quality, singular products. Something served under the finest UX & branding identity. It might also be time for publishers to consider giving readers, convenience, experiences and a seat at the table.
Somehow, the market is not ready for a Netflix-like model because the most urgent matter to address is the need for publishers to build solid foundations - a sustainable business model - before attempting to build a duplex.
Apple News + disappointment
When the news of Apple acquisition’s of Texture, the so-called Netflix of news, dropped in March 2018, I got excited by the challenge. It’s not every day that you’re trying to build something and hear that the company you admire more is acquiring a competitor.
But then I had to wait another year to see what they had planned. Plot twist: Nothing impressive so far. Don’t get me wrong, a Netflix-like model is necessary for news:
Roughly 1-2% of readers are ready to pay for the content. Around 7-10x this number are ready to pay for something that gives them access to a bundles of news they need.
A reading enthusiast reads from dozens of sources per month. Even if they were very cheap, there will be subscription fatigue. Cognitively and economically, people will be able to rationalize a handful of content subscriptions at most (in addition to their music/TV subscriptions).
So yes this model makes economic and pragmatic sense.
Today, you will never unleash the true potential of the platform until they have publishers and content people want to pay for. That means big names such as NY Times, Washpost, Le Monde FT, WSJ, The Economist, The Guardian… but also strong editorial project such as Bitch, McSweeney, Mediapart, De Correspondent, Mother Jones, The Atlantic, The Athletic, The Gentlewoman etc.
We’ve failed at convincing most of those publishers; but Apple, with half a billion in budget, has failed too, so far. I believe that whoever will or is trying to build a Netflix-like model must do it in a different way, or wait (& help) the industry to strengthen its foundations.
“You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller
It doesn’t means that Apple News + will fail in the end. When you have 200bn in cash + 1.4bn in active devices ware on which you have full capacity, nothing is impossible but that’s roughly where I bury jrnal… RIP my beloved companion.