Rock, meet hard place: news survey early results
Friday, 4th November 2011
Business news content: always needed, rarely respected. At least not on the same level as content required by regulations or content enhanced with expert analysis.
Content buyers know that premium products for business news give them reliability, control, analytics, targeting and a host of additional benefits. And yet they continue to struggle to make the budget case for premium news products, particularly when 1) costs are rising and 2) many executives have a hard time understanding the meaningful difference between free news sources and the ones that come with a contract.
“Meaningful difference” may become the operative phrase: The concept of “good enough resources” gained traction during the depths of the recession, and even in recovery it continues to affect buying and usage decisions. Relying on “good enough” has proven in many cases to be… well, good enough. Particularly when regulators and/or shareholders aren’t breathing down one’s corporate neck.
These dynamics have led to increased reliance on non-cost resources (e.g., blogs, free industry newsletters, social media, web versions of print products, etc.). At the same time, non-cost resources have improved in quality and functionality, and information managers have gotten increasingly clever at building tools that help some of these no-cost resources and feeds behave, at least internally, like premium sources.
For a business news publisher – the big, the small and the niche – all of these factors mean hard choices and even harder negotiations.
FreePint Research is currently gathering data as part of the 4th annual Survey on News Needs and Preferences, and these tensions are certainly showing up in the data. Over the past three years, respondents have consistently indicated that they are increasing their use free sources and, furthermore, anticipate continuing to do so.
In the initial results of the 2011 iteration of the research, we might be seeing this trend leveling off. While respondents still report increased usage of free sources in the past 12 months, it is not at a much higher rate than in 2010 results. However, respondents to date in this year’s survey still report in high numbers that they expect use of free resources to grow in the coming 12 months.
The pressures on premium news providers are highlighted yet again, in another area of the survey. We ask respondents to rate their agreement with a number of statements, many of which gauge their willingness to pay for premium news, identify how they value premium services, and rank their willingness to accept different trade-offs for lower costs.
These are the relevant statements respondents are asked to rank on a 1-4 scale (1 = completely disagree; 4 = completely agree):
- Only premium vendors provide the customer service we need
- Only paid-for news content provides the ability to focus searches and alerts we need
- Premium services offer search, targeting and analytics that free offerings can't match
- My organisation is willing to accept advertising in exchange for lower costs on news content
- My organisation is willing to accept limitations in coverage in exchange for lower costs on news content
- My organisation is willing to accept fewer features in exchange for lower costs on news content
The figure shows clearly the contractions premium news publishers face in trying to meet the needs of customers: On the one hand, respondents strongly agree that the key differentiator of premium services is that they offer search, targeting and analytics that free services cannot match (3.05 on the 4-point scale).
On the other hand, they want lower costs, and they are most willing to accept fewer features to get there. This statement earned an agreement rating of 2.81 on the 4-point scale, while the other two options for reduced costs – advertising and coverage limitations – are at the very bottom of the figure.
It’s a difficult position for both sellers and buyers to be in. They want to work together, and yet the market pressures create an impossible situation for sustainability.
There’s still time to participate in FreePint Research: Survey on News Needs and Preferences. Your input will be fully anonymous, and all participants will receive a free copy of the final report. Data collection closes 11 November 2011.
About this item:
Robin has been working with FreePint since 2004, and, since joining full time in 2006, is responsible for strategic planning, product development, relationship management, research and communications. She currently heads the FreePint Research division.
Robin Neidorf ran a research and communications consulting business for 10 years, prior to joining Free Pint Limited. As a consultant, she focused on strategic planning, using information to make better decisions, and creating effective audience-focused communications across different media.
Robin has worked with a wide range of organisations in the for-profit and non-profit sector. She has developed online communities, publications and distance learning modules for a range of business purposes. She is the author of Teach Beyond Your Reach: An instructor's guide to developing and running successful distance learning classes, workshops, training sessions and more (second edition, Cyber Age, 2012) and the co-author of E-Merchant: Retail Strategies for e-Commerce (Addison-Wesley, 2001).
Robin can be reached at email@example.com
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