Media properties’ new formula: Publish … re-publish … and publish yet again.

RepublishingAs media properties have moved away from finite schedules of daily, weekly or monthly publication to something more akin to 24/7 content dissemination, it’s becoming quite a challenge to deliver new content.

The reality is, building a digital media property in today’s “always on” world that can successfully deliver new, original content on an ongoing basis is quite costly.

In fact, it’s economically unfeasible for many if not most publishing enterprises.

This explains why readers have started to see a parade of news items that have been reused, recycled or repurposed in an effort to present the items as “fresh” news multiple times over.

This is happening with greater regularly, and it’s seemingly getting more prevalent with every passing day.

Here’s a representative case:  Business Insider.  This finance and news site has doubled its traffic over the past several years.  Business Insider now attracts more than 12 million unique visitors each month – each of them presumably interested in consuming “fresh news.”

But for content that is fairly “evergreen” in nature, Business Insider is perfectly content to serve up the same (or nearly similar) stories two … three … four times or more.

For example, one of its stories, “Facts About McDonald’s That Will Blow Your Mind,” has been published no fewer than six times over a span of three years.

The various iterations of that article varied very little each time.  Sometimes there were a different number of facts presented (usually 15 or 16).  Business Insider even published the identical list twice in the same year, using the exact same headline while revising only the introductory paragraph.

Beyond the fact that publishing essentially the same article six times within three years took some of the burden off the news-gathering and writing team, it turns out that topics such as this one really do engage readers — time and again.

Business Insider’s first iteration of the McDonald’s article attracted more than 2.5 million views.  And overall, the story has been clicked on more than 8 million times.

(Of course, the final time the article ran, the story generated only around 400,000 views, so at some point the law of diminishing returns had to come into play.)

articleI like another example, too:  Cosmopolitan Magazine.  In April of this year, it published an article titled “25 Life-Changing Ways to Use Q-tips.”  That story generated only 44 shares — hardly earth-shattering results for a media property with over 3 million subscribers.

But then Cosmopolitan promoted the article on Pinterest in May … and also on Twitter in May and again in June … and on Facebook in early May and again there in early June.

Whereas Cosmopolitan’s original posting of the article on its own website didn’t result in much engagement to speak of, just the two Facebook posts resulted in nearly 1,500 shares.

With these kinds of results being generated, it’s no wonder publishers have decided to “publish … re-publish … and then publish again.”

So the next time you have a sensation of déjà vu about reading an article, chances are, you’re not dreaming.

Amazon continues to push the envelope … while pushing books right off the table.

Amazon Kindle continues to push the envelope in book publishingIt’s hard to deny that the growth and success of Amazon has had a huge impact on the book industry. The liquidation of Borders Books is just the latest evidence of that.

But other market moves by Amazon demonstrate that the company has set its sights on far more than just owning the traditional retail book and recorded music segments. The introduction of the Kindle e-reader and release of subsequent newer, cheaper models proves that Amazon seeks to dominate the “information” space no matter what form it takes.

Two recent developments show how this is continuing to happen. First, the company announced that it is launching a new public-library feature that gives the Kindle the same library-borrowing abilities as competing e-reader devices like the Nook offer.

Public libraries have taken notice of the announcement, because Kindle so dominates the e-reader market. According to Forrester Research, an estimated 7.5 million Kindles are being used in America; that’s about two-thirds of all e-readers in the country.

Already, large public library systems such as those in Chicago and New York offer free digital-book lending. A trip to the library is not needed. Instead, patrons simply use their library card ID numbers to download books from the library’s website.

As with conventional “paper and glue” books (I love that new term!), there are “lending periods” for e-books usually ranging 2-3 weeks. Libraries purchase the e-books from publishers as they do bound books, and only one borrower can check out an e-title at a time.

How are Amazon’s latest e-lending developments affecting book publishers? For one thing, e-books never wear out, which means publishers (and authors) can’t benefit from reorders of popular titles due to book wear. Partially for this reason, several major publishers such as Simon & Schuster and Macmillan don’t sell their digital works to libraries … yet.

Adam Rothberg, senior vice president and director of corporate communications at Simon & Schuster, commented, “We value libraries for their work of encouraging literacy and the habit of reading, but we haven’t yet found a business model we’re comfortable with.”

Another publisher, HarperCollins, decided to set a checkout limit for each title of 26 times, after which a library would need to repurchase the book in order to continue lending it out.

Not surprisingly, that policy has been greeted with hoots and catcalls by the library industry.

Regardless of the selling policies under consideration, one wonders how much longer the major publishers can continue to hold out, as the entry of market-dominant Kindle should significantly raise consumer demand for library e-titles.

And in another move that is sure to shake up another segment of the book world – educational textbooks – Amazon announced several weeks ago that it has opened up a “textbook store” for the Kindle platform. That store is already offering thousands of textbook titles for rental, with many more in the offing.

Here’s how it works: Amazon will allow buyers to acquire textbooks at a deep-discount off of the standard print pricing. The charge will be based on the amount of time the student plans to hold the book – with a minimum rental period of 30 days (which can be extended, if desired).

And to further sweeten the pot, borrowers will be able to access any “notes” and “highlights” they’ve made to their texts even after they’ve “returned” the textbooks.

I’ve blogged before about the college textbook publishing segment — a niche some see as an unholy alliance between book publishers and college bookstores that more resembles a “racket” than a fair business model.

Charging ridiculously high textbook prices along with releasing suspiciously frequent “updated” new editions that change perhaps 2% or less of a book’s content have been all too common.

Moves by Amazon – along with similar programs introduced by smaller providers like Chegg, Inkling and Kno – may finally usher in an end to the indefensibly high prices of textbooks that have long been the bane of students (and their parents). And no one is mourning that.

Newspaper publishers and online news consumers: Still miles apart on paid content.

How can the views and perspectives of newspaper publishers and readers be so out of kilter? It might have something to do with “wishful thinking” on the part of the publishers.

Case in point: American Press Institute has just released the results of a field research study that compares the opinions of readers and publishers on paying for news content.

Naturally, this issue is of paramount concern to newspapers that are trying to create a new business model that is profitable. In fact, nearly 60% of the publisher respondents in the survey reported that they’re considering requiring paid access for online news — news that is currently provided to readers free of charge. At the same time, these respondents seem to believe that consumers will willingly “pay to play” in a new paid-content environment.

But I wonder about that.

Here’s an example of the disconnect between newspaper publishers and news consumers found in the survey: More than two-thirds of the publishers believe it will be “not very easy” or “not easy at all” for consumers to find similar news content online from alternative free sources once the shift to paid content happens. Do consumers agree? Well … only ~43% think the same way.

And where do newspaper publishers think people will go for news if their paper’s free online information is no longer available to them? Again, we see a big disparity in the results. The top three sources publishers think consumers will turn to are:

 The publisher’s own print newspaper: 75%
 Other local media: 55%
 Television: 53%

For consumers, those alternate sources all rated lower – in two cases, dramatically so:

 The publisher’s own print newspaper: 30%
 Other local media: 17%
 Television: 45%

[For the record, the alternative free news source identified by the most consumers was “other local web sites,” cited by 68% of respondents.]

With such dramatically different views held by newspaper publishers and their consumers, it’s clear that both sides can’t be correct. I’ll to bet that the consumers’ responses are closer to the reality.

For this reason, it would be advisable for publishers to tread very carefully as they attempt a shift to a paid content business model. Does the term “evaporating audiences” mean anything to them?