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Panpa Bulletin : May 2011
www.panpa.org.au the money magic of serendipity MAGIC happens in newspapers when readers bump into things that interest them. It could be an article they didn’t expect to read on a topic they didn’t expect to like. It could be a treasured or unique insight by a beautiful writer they’d never read before, useful information from an unexpected source, or way of pre- senting information that provides a lightbulb moment. It can even be an ad for a product that they didn’t realise existed, but now realise they absolutely need. If you cut to the core of it, this more than anything else, is what readers love about their papers – our ability to surprise. It’s interesting to think about how surprise happens online. It’s harder to be surprised in an environment of hunting what you’re looking for. You seek, you Google, you find. A surprise is unwanted. Social net- working gives us the unexpected laugh, insight or photo of someone’s new baby. But it’s not the kind of information you cut out and keep. RSS feeds spam you with info you may find worth sharing, but inevi- tably, the sheer relentlessness of the volume turns you off. Or you print something out, forget about it and leave it on the printer. The legacy of the efficiency of successfully searching online has rubbed off on a lot of our thinking. And the hard and harsh days of financial crisis have robbed us of some of our ability to deliver sur- prise consistently. But capturing this random interac- tion between product and reader should be at the heart of our attempts to monetise content across every for- mat, whether it’s how we market our print product, charge for content, or ask people to pay for apps. Creativ- ity generates constant surprises. Newspaper companies however have taken a rather traditional ap- proach to money making online, seeking to introduce models that work elsewhere and simply repro- duce them. Advertising, subscrip- tions, pay-per-view – we’ve trotted them all out and been a little un- derwhelmed by the results. And our fear has cut into our ability to aston- ish elsewhere. Our marketing these days no longer surprises (free CD or DVD with every edition, yawn), tem- plating of sections creates a visual sameness that deadens the senses, and our retail presence in the very businesses created to sell us, put bluntly, absolutely sucks. ( Just how attractive is a pile of papers?) No wonder lottery companies are taking over and newsagents want to simply walk away. At the INMA World Congress in New York last year, a presenta- tion from the New York Times talked about how the newspaper focused on creating serendipity in all of its new products – whether online, as apps, or in print. The desire to let readers ‘bump into’ content resulted in the NYT building an app that allowed readers mobile access to every book review they’d written, for use in bookstores. Or compiling restaurant reviews for a dining app or wine reviews for a wine app. Creating opportunities for readers to access it exactly when they wanted it, and be surprised and delighted with the results, was the New York Times monetisation strategy – andnotabadoneatthat. Some Australian publishers have gone down this path to a limited degree. But there’s more in this. Certainly there’s more than just charging people a small amount to be ‘entertained’ in a market that is itself tiny. Changing how newspapers regard data is vital in this conversation. For centuries, newspapers have written and published stories, distributed them, and used them as fish and chip wrapper. Say the word “data” to any journalist and most will run a mile – claiming its words they love, not numbers. For too many, this attitude does not change when they become editors. Spreadsheets are just annoy- ing things that accountants use to bludgeon them at budget time. But data is not about numbers. It is the essence of everything we write – a vast repository of information that is a snapshot about living in our cities, our lifestyle choices, the state of our schools, suburbs, hospitals and crime waves. Sucking the data out of the stories – or seeing the stories as data in themselves – and creatively visualis- ing this information to create a wider context will create new opportunities for serendipity. Hans Rosling, data superstar and founder of the Gapminder Founda- tion was recently interviewed in the online Google magazine, Think Quarterly. “My basic idea is that the world has changed so much, what people need isn’t more data, but a new mindset,” Rosling said. “The problem is that companies have a strict separation between their IT department where data sets are produced and the design department. Getting people used to ... animated data is, to my mind, a literacy project.” When newspaper companies succeed in breaking down the silos between our IT departments, online teams, designers, marketers and journalists, the surprise and delight that will explode from such creative mixes will cause spontaneous seren- dipity. And magic will happen on our bottom lines again. Kylie davis is the new National Real Estate editor at News Ltd and former owner, publisher and “entreprenette”at The village voice newspapers. Kylie Davis Opinion 0 | MAY 2011 | The PANPA Bulletin Now available for Android www.woodwing.com/tablet WoodWing: No. 1 in the world Tablet Publishing Software for efficient cross-media publishing Publishers all over the world are choosing WoodWing’s Digital Magazine Tools to produce and publish their daily, weekly or monthly issues for tablets. Some of our customers: . Time Inc. Warta Kota The Malaysian Reserve Gramedia BILCOM Mainichi Newspaper Company Star Publications Centerpoint Entertainment South China Morning Post Kontan Pacific Magazines APC Magazine Magic happens in newspapers when readers bump into things that interest them