Road Ahead: Content Clouds and Paywalls

Clouds of content are circling overhead and many experiments in making money by delivering that content to consumers are underway and for good reason.

The Road Ahead:Clouds of Content July 2010
Photo by: Flavio Takemoto

As Dan Coates comments in his Perfect Marketing column for Media Post: “While the Internet doesn’t quite represent a perfect market where individuals have perfect information and benefit from perfect competition, it’s much closer to perfection than ever before.”

It is not just the technology that is changing. Citing a recent study, by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Kantar (“The New Consumer Behavior Paradigm“) Coates contrasts Gen Y with previous consumers and says: “While other generations use these same (Internet) tools and technologies to make comparisons and guide their purchase decisions, they do so with the spirit of a convert rather than that of a true believer. Gen Y has never not had these tools at their disposal.” As well documented by declining print circulation figures, Gen Y is far more inclined to go online than open a newspaper or magazine.

Their reliance on the Internet makes paywalls promising despite contrary findings from surveys that undoubtedly included a high proportion of Gen X and Boomer respondents. That’s why Rick Edmonds surmises on Poynter Online’s Business Blog that the big players are getting serious about paywalls. He cites News Corp’s investment in Journalism Online and acquisition of the Skiff E-Reader from Hearst and Google’s development of NewsPass and a number of variations on the trend. Among the latter: MediaNews while seeking bankruptcy protection and Gannett while seeking solutions to floundering, staff-depleted and content-starved small dailies in its chain. Also noteworthy are Yahoo and AOL adding content farms, leading it was suggested to “an itunes of news.”

John Blossom, in his Shoreline Newsletter takes a less sanguine view in his review of most of the current paywall attempts but does offer high praise for one Internet innovation that also seems to offer opportunity for auto writers. It is Main Street Connect. It puts the focus on new ways to include local merchants (car dealers?) and community members in the editorial mix.

Whatever evolves, Coates’ conclusion seems a certainty: “Gen Y is at the beginning of the arc of its economic power. What we see today will be rapidly extended and expanded beyond our current context as technology evolves and the largest generation in American history begins to participate fully in the economic activity of our society.”