There's something I need to get off my chest. It's about newspapers. I know the newspaper industry is in the tank. I know that they need to find new ways to deliver and monetize the content they provide. I also know that the current state of their crisis is due in part to the fact that they are trying to protect tangible assets rather than capturing the intellectual value they provide. Something has to change. I get it.
But - I love my morning newspaper. I love starting the day by finding out what's going on while I eat my breakfast - in the kitchen, not at the computer. It's how I prepare myself to face the day, and I love the experience.
I read that the New York Times is toying with the idea of abandoning the printed newspaper and distributing the Kindle to all subscribers. Yes, it can go with you to all the places the printed paper can go, but it severely limits the ability to scan the whole paper to get an overall sense of what's important that day. This made me realize that the value of the newspaper to me is not to deliver all the details of the news. I can get that online much more easily. The true value to me is to give me a sense of the zeitgeist. I can quickly check the vital signs of what's going on in the world, and then decide where I want to focus interest.
This all made me think of a better purpose for the printed paper. Wouldn't it be great if I could get a very thin version of the paper, with all the headlines and summaries of the major papers that I like to read? For me, it would be a collection of the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, and the Boston Globe - with the headlined summaries compressed into a small, one-section version of the paper. This would reduce clutter, which is why there is no way I could ever subscribe to all the current print versions of these papers. And most importantly, would allow for even more comprehensive scanning - a major benefit to me. Allow the ability to customize what goes in your bundle, and voila!
Of course, my point is a bit broader than to suggest a specific idea here. When trying to think of ways to reinvent your business, it's not always an either/or situation. Don't forget to think about the aspects of the experience that your end-users currently value and think of ways to blend the old and new. In my example, printing costs could be drastically reduced, cross marketing and co-branding between brands and delivery platforms could be beneficial rather than competitive, and the main value of the printed paper experience would not be lost, but enhanced. Most importantly, when the aspects of the experience I value are increased, I'd be happy to pay more. I bet consumers in other industries would too.