Telcos offer a bright light

The future for news publishers is many things. Distribution is at its heart.

Optus

The telecommunications company, Optus, has just partnered with The Australian newspaper to sell the papers news app with their mobile and broadband packages

The big deals come when news publishers create sales channels with Telstra (Australia), NZ Telecom (New Zealand) and SingTel (Singapore).

That’s where the volume lies.

The future of journalism on the tablet computer – and, therefore, maybe the medium-term future of journalism – will be heavily dependent on sales channels, particularly with telecos.

They can offer a choice of content at the point of sale for a device, build content charges into the mobile data contract, do the billing and send publishers the money, less their clip of the ticket.

Lovely.

If that happens, then this becomes a marketing-led game for publishers and will require a massive re-evaluation of the industry’s skills and priorities around this area of the business.

Product, price, packaging, research, speed to market . . . cut-throat, real-world business issues. And the game will be played against many more content providers than traditional rivals.

Publishers will have to market themselves more heavily to be considered by the consumer; content will have to be relevant to lifestyles.

The game will change.

In all probability, the telcos will build web-based portals that allow customers to log in to change their content sources, or even volumes of content they have selected, to suit their personal circumstances.

Some of us might want more content while on holiday; some of us, less. No matter. Adjust the profile, and not only the content but the cost will be adjusted, too.

It will be simple and easy, I’m certain of it.

Success will depend more on the relationship with the reader than ever before. (Some may need to read that sentence again: keyword – “relationship”).

They’ll turn you on and off like a tap.

Great content will fly but only if marketed strongly and accurately, packaged correctly and priced right. The rest will sink but that just presents opportunities to evolve and improve.

With the telcos doing the billing, publishers need only worry about the journalism (in all its evolving forms), customer relationships and selling audiences to advertisers.

Right now, we’re all a bit fixated on the tech – Android vs. Apple; or tablets from Samsung, Dell, Apple and so on.

None of that really matters to a publisher in the medium to long-term.

Key will be the ability to forge alliances with sales channels for content, making sure the customer has the best opportunity to order journalism and a time when they are ready to buy.

And by the way, sales channels rarely accept lazy product marketing. So the pressure for publishers to keep evolving and spending money on marketing will come from the distribution side as much as anywhere else.

The management team at The Australian have created the beach-head.

If their work with Optus, and also in negotiating their app to be pre-loaded on to the Samsung Galaxy, is not inspirational to you, then I fear for your future.

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