Media’s Magic Penny

PriceWaterhouseCoopers is telling media companies they need open up their business models to prosper in the content mashup that is currently unfolding on the Internet. The consulting firm put its prescriptions into a white paper delivered at a telecommunications conference in Las Vegas.

PWC’s press release delivers the highlights and leaves me with the sense this the opening of the business models is being advocated on a peer basis between big media. I do not get the sense that embracing “mini media” is part of the plan. But as Paid Content said in pointing to the item “the end result is not that bad.”

The report sounds like an attempt to put into corporate lingo the magic penny concept popularized by folksinger Malvina Reynolds — give it away and you end up having more.

But while I love the notion of giveaways producing their own rewards I wonder if that can really pay the bills in the content world. Consider another Paid Content bit that gathers together praise for the New York Times website redesign — and includes the thought that the web version is so good it’s time to cancel the print subscription and save $621 annually.

Too much “success” of that nature will surely make it difficult for the Times to produce stories like Adam Nagourney’s recent piece on how technology is changing political campaigns.

I guess the thought is that advertising — which generates most of the revenue in current print media and all the dollars in broadcast news — will kick in the necessary support. Until now subscription fees contributed both cash and proof of interest. That has been tough to replicate in the online world. Web culture is in such a hurry and so expecting of freebies that we even shun registration.

The PWC report says “focus groups revealed that consumers are willing to pay for content that is unique or difficult to find.” It would comfort those of us who hope to make livings as “content providers” to see more evidence of that. Maybe it’s the rain we’re having in Northern California but today I’m wondering if, when it comes to media, the magic penny principle may be all wet.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media