Despite every intention otherwise, I keep returning to commenting on the industry, where I got my education and served a significant part of my career:
The media industry.
I just can’t escape the fact that I get almost emotional every time someone within the industry makes an argument that only serves to prolong the suicidal pain, the industry is putting on itself by not squarely facing up to the real market realities they exist within.
Latest example? Paywalls. Or rather; the customers lack of love for them.
Whenever a new survey comes out indicating that customers don’t want articles behind paywalls, you will hear a version of this argument from the industry:
“Oh, but this and this industry also has expectations that you pay for what they are offering”.
I have seen a lot of analogies for this with laptop-resellers and bakeries being just the latest. So let’s latch onto those and just briefly examine why this analogy is both flawed and – ultimately – downright stupid:
No matter if you went into a computerstore or bakery back in the 80’s or even today, there has always been a constant: The merchandise was sitting on the shelves with a nice price tag onto them, and the ONLY way you could get to walk out of the store with something in your hands was by forking up the cash to pay the price on the tag (or haggle yourself to a slight discount, but that’s beside the point here).
How about in the media industry?
Through 20 years the media industry have said to people coming to their ‘store’, aka news websites: “Look, everything here is free. Just feast yourself to your own delight.”
That advertisers paid for the privilege of offering the product to customers for free was a point lost on the consumers. To them it was just great that they could get something without paying directly. Who doesn’t like that idea?
Fast forward to today. Media entities are now busy putting (much needed and long overdue) paywalls up.
Now, naturally when you start demanding something from your customers in the way of payment rather than just offering it for free, a chunk of your customers will object to it. After all the feeling is that you’re talking something away from them.
But trying to reason that argument by comparing it to other industries, where you ALWAYS had to pay out of pocket is just misplaced. It’s like comparing apples to cheese.
And where it IMHO gets downright stupid is that as long as media people insist on blaming the customers that they just won’t all accept the change, the more time it will take for these same media people to focus on the things they need to do from their end to get out of the misery they’re in:
Developing the product into something customers find it natural to pay for, because it has that value to them.
As hard as it is in reality, as basic straightforward solution it is.
It is the only way this industry will ever be able to move out of this quagmire they’re in. And if blatantly stating when they are misusing their time on worthless arguments can help push things in the right direction that alone is a reason to keep on bringing it up and commenting on it.
Only trouble with that is that I am not confident they will ever really understand, let alone accept, it. Which probably also means that this won’t be the last time I feel the strong urge to comment on it…