Thursday, August 07, 2008

Business models for e-news

As a recent study entitled The medium is the message by PriceWaterhouseCoopers shows, consumers are not prepared to pay more than half the sum they would pay for a printed magazine. So, if the printed magazine already contains a great number of advertisements to cover the publishing costs, what kind of business models do we expect for online publications if the prize to be charged is low to non-existent? If many consumers see digital-only content as a substitute for printed content, it is hard to argue that the online version of a publication will create only minor additional costs, thus it can live without ads.

The question is what kind of advertisements can be offered to customers so they are not bothered or annoyed, but find them helpful and a hint to useful resources or services - or how to bundle media consumption with other services (such as an internet connection or IPTV service with additional value), thus charging the end user a competitive fee so the included media delivery costs are not experienced as an additional burden. What would an additional value that customers are prepared to value appropriately be like if publishers in Britain and North America expect to generate as much as 20% of their total revenues from digital platforms within the next five years, while in Europe, it is only 10%?

An interesting idea seems to be a stronger interaction between official media providers and blog articles, but this needs a bit more thinking.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Personalized News

These days, telecom operators can be seen experimenting with customized news delivery. While Amazon already offers a portable device for e-books called Kindle (not available in Europe yet), in order to trigger their e-book sales (available at $ 9.99 per item), there are a couple of projects in Europe that aim to deliver electronic news to the customer in a mobile device (such as Orange / France Telecom, which is cooperating with five major newspapers in France in their Read&Go trial with 150 testers, or Deutsche Telekom in Germany, planning a trial under the (project) label News4Me with a few dozen test users in Berlin this fall. The claim is, of course, to offer personalized news, but this requires a cooperation with news agencies or newspapers, as well as a hardware manufacturer offering suitable devices that are portable enough to be carried around, yet offer an appropriate screen size and resolution.

When it comes to news aggregation, Google does a good job when being online - the main feature being the search field to filter out relevant articles. However, when it comes to mobile usage, the following features seem to be mandatory in order to guarantee ease of use and offer enough attractiveness for potential customers:

  • a categorization for articles (which could be selectable via tabs), this requires a categorization mechanism, mapping the categories from news providers to a built-in categorization scheme (including the treatment of synonyms)
  • a keyword extraction mechanism that generates tags for news articles based on the contained text
  • a rating mechanism, allowing users to influence what is being proposed to them (i. e. dynamic profile adaptation). This could be explicit rating as well as implicit mechanisms (e. g. for articles spanning several pages, if the next page is selected, this could indicate an interest for the selected article). Explicit rating mechanisms should have a stronger influence than implicit ratings.
  • a profile management mechanism, allowing for an easy generation of initial profiles (e. g. pre-selection of genres) and an adaptation of profiles based on ratings and other user interactions (causing positive and negative weighing of tags and genres to influence the current profile)
  • annotation mechanisms that assume pen-based interaction, as (virtual) keyboards are not an appropriate interaction mechanism for mobile devices. This includes handwriting recognition and pre-defined labelings (such as indicating consent, disagreement etc.)
  • forwarding mechanisms to other users participating in the service, including a text field for personal notes
  • a Web version of the personalized news portal, allowing an alternative usage via ordinary PCs or notebooks, and also allowing the inviation of users not yet participating in the service (by sending them an e-mail or, alternatively, a SMS on their mobile phones)

Of course these are just a few thoughts that are by no means complete - any additional comments are welcome.