Buy! Now! Publishers Must Embrace E-Commerce for Mobile Media

Last Updated Feb 26, 2010 6:33 PM EST

As media executives grapple with the new opportunities (and dangers) presented by the transition to mobile platforms, it's fascinating to see the realization -- slowly sinking in -- that e-commerce must be a central aspect of their business strategies going forward.

New York Times publisher and Chair Arthur Sulzberger Jr., for example, recently marveled about how much money the Times makes courtesy of its wine club, and also from a "distance learning" partnership.

"We have permission from many New York Times loyalists to do many things," Sulzberger stated.

Indeed. That's called leveraging your brand.

Writing for Poynter Online this week, Dorian Benkoil laid out the logic of a "hybrid business model" for media companies:

"The mixed model has been the rule in business-to-business media for decades. A publisher attracts a loyal customer base in a targeted niche and services them in several ways, continually gathering information on customers and constantly tweaking the mix of subscriptions, events, publications, databases, advertising, reference books and anything else."
That this model can -- and should -- include ecommerce is a relatively new insight for traditional media companies, particularly newspapers, which have tended to shun such opportunities in the past.

But more far-sighted media execs operating in online-only environments have already embraced ecommerce, or are trying to do so.

A salient example can be seen over at Salon.com, where CEO Richard Gingras has built the Salon Store, which currently offers users quirky goods consistent with what he calls the "Salon lifestyle."

Meanwhile, mobile devices with their new interfaces, offer a fresh opportunity to integrate ecommerce with content and help define the next frontier in the evolution of media business models going forward.

Martin Langeveld, writing for the Nieman Journalism Lab, has laid out a vision for publishers to follow:

  1. The mobile web will be ubiquitous -- upward of 70 percent of adults will be connected to the web on mobile platforms, virtually all of their waking hours.
  2. All forms of media consumption will move to mobile platforms, especially the iPad and its competitors and successors, at an increasing rate.
  3. Marketers will shift their budgets to mobile platforms (and out of both newspapers and direct mail) at an increasing rate.
  4. Consumers will respond strongly to mobile pitches in the form of ads, video, social recommendations, online catalogues, deals-of-the day (like the explosively growing Groupon -- an operation newspapers should be partnering with), and other channels yet to be invented.
Langeveld adds that the bottom line for publishers has to be "to actually sell stuff and facilitate transaction -- in short, to leverage those new relationships of trust into brand new streams of revenue."

Amen.

Image: Composite, via Telstar Logistics
Related BNET Media links:
Apple vs. Major Media: The iPad Stalemate
A Cheap iPad Could Short-Circuit Publishers' Victory Over Amazon
Go Down Moses, Apple Unveils its Media Tabula Rasa
Apple Tablet's Jump Start for Media Digital Revenues
The True Test of the NYT's Paywall Plan Will Be e-Readers
Salon.com Relaunch Features New Emphasis on Growing Revenue
image: NYT Wine Shop

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.