Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Illyria with Others, Bidding for PDN's Parent Company

In an era where the printing presses are becoming dinosaurs of a (soon to be) bygone era, the value of niche media with a target audience, delivered in an online platform is becoming the new standard for content, and a valuable one at that. Almost since their arrival online, Photo District News, one of the several valuable properties owned by Nielsen Business Media, has delivered a partial set of their valuable content for free, with a greater set of content behind a firewall, accessible only to those with paid subscriptions to the print edition. This "nibble for free, pay for the whole thing" approach is one that is attractive to the prospective owners of Nielsen. The principal lead for Illyria is Lachlan Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch, who is not only known for continuing the same nibble-then-pay model at the Wall Street Journal, but is also looking to make a strong deal with Microsoft and their Bing search engine for new business models online.

Nielsen has a strong portfolio of publications, including The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, and others. Of concern though, is this quote, by Nielsen, as cited by the Financial Times, “For assets that don’t hit the mark, we’re always looking to work them out of the portfolio.” PDN is not insulated from drop in print subscribers or drops in advertising revenues. However, it would be foolish for the Nielsen number crunchers to judge PDN on print subscribers alone when their online content is not only robust, but also pre-designed to continue the nibble-then-pay model that the Murdochs (rightly) see as the future of publishing.

(Continued after the Jump)
One interesting model is that used by The Hollywood Reporter, touted by them as "...an exact replica of the print edition with page turner technology...", and that may be one model that could spread to the rest of the Nielsen-cum-Murdoch lineup, post-acquisition. Interestingly, this model just may allow some of the high per-page advertising rates to be maintained, as opposed to the poorly established low per-pixel rates being paid for online ads that was set across the board years ago, and is not sustainable nowadays (actually, it was never sustainable, just underwritten by the print ad revenues).

As noted at the beginning, broad coverage, in an attempt to serve the masses, is not the future, niche media is. TechCrunch reported on a survey that showed that small town newspapers showed an increase of 4.3% in advertising, as well as local classified ads. Considering that a local newspaper is one example of niche publishing (i.e. local news for the local reader), this makes sense. One example (and apologies in that the town's name escapes me) showed that local (i.e. niche) focus pays well, with a circulation of over 100%, because the subscribers were giving their papers to friends in neighboring towns to read. While this may be an extreme example, consider the value of the free subscriptions given to doctors offices, in terms of the number of actual readers per issue.

In the end, it makes sense for Nielsen to not only utilize and expand the PDN nibble-then-pay model, but also to keep the quality of content and reporting that PDN has delivered for years and expand on it where printed page-counts are not the limiting factors to great stories, articles, and insights.

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