Tag Archives: paywalls

Newspapers and the Burger King mentality. How would you like your news?

It has been a little while since my last post. I have been busy but also have been doing a lot of research trying to make sure my other posts were still with merit. What is amazing to me is how much is going on in the newspaper industry right now and how much of it has to do with sustaining a profitable online news model. The last three years has been an intense one if you are in the news business. So many theories, so many readers’ requests, so little help from our economy. I believe the news business has been spinning mostly in circles not because the executives are slow to adapt to new technologies as many of the new media experts gripe. On the contrary, the news business has been too quick to adapt. Let me use Burger King as an illustration.

In the late 1970’s, Burger King introduced the “Have it your way” campaign. It was a smashing success. It told customers that if they didn’t want onions they don’t have to get onions. You could actually tell the person taking your order the way you wanted your burger as if you were at home preparing it yourself.

There were limits. You couldn’t tell them you wanted a specialty bun or spear pickles. They wanted you to know they would make the burger the way you wanted but still had profitability concerns. They still wanted to make money on their Whopper.

Today in the news business, we are like Burger King without the limits.

How do you want your news? Facebook? ok, email? ok, twitter? ok, without ads? ok, iPad? ok

We haven’t even paused to make sure we can make money doing these things. In fact, the odds are stacked against us. I personally have yet to see a sustainable, profitable online model.

(I will get to some of the reasons on a later post – trust me it is good stuff)

So if Burger King was able to innovate and still tell the customer there are limits when it comes to profitability, why won’t the news industry? Why is it that billions of dollars are being invested in new media ideas without any real hope of sustained profitability?

I believe change is coming. It started last week with the paywall announcement. It may be fun to bash newspapers but the truth is that the profitability is still in the printed product. Soon these newspaper executives will move off the Burger King mentality and perhaps take up Wendy’s popular “Where’s the beef” campaign. But instead of looking where the beef is they will be looking for the over-hyped, under-delivered very difficult to find new media profitability.

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