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Posted by on Oct 20, 2009 in Leadership | 0 comments

What Can Save Newspapers?

Do the Flaming Lips Have the Answer?

Going through my old photos, I stumbled across a picture that I took at a Flaming Lips concert. I managed to capture the confetti, dozens of flashlights held by women in alien and Santa Clause outfits, a nun hand puppet, balloons the size of a compact car, billowing smoke and enthusiasm brimming to near chaos. Any Flaming Lips fan will tell you though the music is fantastic, the concerts truly showcase the band’s abstract, off-the-wall creative energy.

In a world where CD sales have plateaued and despite the efforts of Apple and other MP3 marketplaces, music is stolen en masse by vast global networks of internet users. Further, for emerging bands, it’s all they can do to give their music away (think MySpace Music). The CD and MP3 are meant entice fans into attending shows. The money is in the concert–the unique experience in which music, performers and the audience unite for one night. Bands need to sell you on an experience. Flaming Lips have done this famously well.

Typically, the music industry is a step ahead of most other media–particularly newspapers. As newspapers are challenged by declining offline readership, many are finding it difficult to charge the same advertising rates circa 1980s. The main obstacle newspapers face is information. The hallmark of all newspapers is now available for free, anywhere on the web. They face a similar challenge as the music industry and its issues with music pirating.

Newspapers can learn a valuable lesson from the music industry. Just as the music industry sells the unique experience of concerts, so too does the newspaper industry need to develop a unique experience. What can you offer that no one else can? Because information is no longer the commodity it was was, what is uniquely valuable to your readers that you can offer? Is it a unique angle? What makes you different and valuable to your user base? Once you’ve developed a limited resource, now you’ve created value that can be monetized.

It is the answers to these million-dollar questions that will ultimately save newspaper companies.

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