Today's highly competitive media environment has put a dent in revenues, particularly for traditional news outlets. In the struggle to maintain profits, cutting costs was an easy first step - although it created a feedback loop, since cutting costs meant reducing the value of the product, which led to lower demand and further revenue losses. Many news media also started looking for new sources for revenues - entering new markets (going online), repurposing content for later sales, finding ways to add value to the basic product, among others. The trouble's been that few of these have turned out to be significant contributors to total revenues.
A local TV station in Orlando has come up with a new approach that could provide a new model for successfully monetizing news. Taking advantage of national interest in a local trial (the Casey Anthony murder case), they used their own coverage and their local access to create an online site to follow the case, assembling daily news reports, videos, photos, case calendar and legal documents (more than 20,000 pages of content). Access is through a paid iPhone app, which also serves to push updates to interested mobile users. The effort's been successful, topping the paid news apps category for weeks. While not divulging actual sales numbers, WESH-TV's digital media manager Gabe Travers, thought the app was a natural extension of the broadcaster's extensive coverage.
The way they've approached this app has also contributed to the app's success. First, there was a focus on a big story with broad interest, rather than items of general, but passing, interest. In many ways, a narrow focus makes it easier to establish value, if only for the portion of audience that is interested. Second, they loaded up the content side, and included the kinds of background and supporting material that would never make a regular newscast and are also not easily available elsewhere. Loading up on content helps in several ways - it expands the potential market (for example, Travers noted that the legal documents were surprisingly popular, perhaps tapping into the legal market), and bundles limited interest in specific pages to levels of aggregate value that are more likely to exceed the cost of access. Finally, they kept the price low, making it easier for people to try it out, to find that there is sufficient value, and to recommend it to others.
Now not every media outlet has a high-profile story with national or international interest that they might be able to exploit in this fashion. But WESH-TV's success should encourage other media outlets to think about what stories or content might find an audience willing to pay a little for access to more content and information than is generally available.
Source: "Local TV iPnone app tops the iTunes charts," Lost Remote