Archive for the 'features' Category

Insanely Great Startup Idea

If Digg distributed its comment threads to the blog posts themselves, that would be awesome. But if Digg also distributed the ability to do the digging to the posts themselves, that would be killer.

Digg is awesome. Disqus and other commenting services are awesome. Digg and Disqus would be awesome as one.

Those two feature sets are a match made in blogging heaven.

Want to race to see who makes this happen first, me or you?

News Is an Experiential Good; Or, Why it’s not like buying a pair of pants

When you buy a pair of pants, you try them on first. You want to make sure they fit. So clothing stores give up scarce retail space to enclose little spaces that are no good for displaying their trendy threads. They’re called dressing rooms, of course. If there were a store that rejected the idea that we should be able to try on our pants before we buy them, we’d reject the store. We’d protest that we’re worried about wasting our money on pants that we don’t like, and we’d threaten to go elsewhere. “Sizes and cuts and feels are too hard to predict,” we’d complain. “I really like your Sevens, but I’m not sure I’ll love them. What if I my hips are too big?”

One really seriously unfortunate fact about the news is you can’t very well try on an article before you read it. Sure, you can read the teaser, the first paragraph, or the pull quotes. Maybe there’s a cute sidebar or attractive graphics with catchy captions. But you don’t really know whether you and the article will make a great match till after you’ve already read the thing.

This is an age-old case study in brands. That’s why every issue of the New Yorker or the Economist or Cosmo or Men’s Health or Maximall seem vaguely, surreally the same, issue after issue, cover after cover, or cartoon after cartoon. High brow or low—the economics are the same. It’s their way of informing their reader that reading the last issue is a little bit like trying the new issue on for size. If you liked our work before, you’ll like it again. It’s different, but it’s really the same.

That’s one reason why Steve Brill’s “secret plan to save the New York Times and journalism itself” is flawed. I don’t have the resources to offer a top-to-bottom critique, so I’ll focus on one point. One the one hand, “All online articles will cost 10 cents each to read in full, with simple, one-step purchases powered by an I-Tunes-like Journalism infrastructure.” And on the other, “There would be a five cent charge to forward an article to someone else. Paying customers would get a license to do that” when they set up their accounts.

If the pants analogy suggests that it’s hard to charge for content before the consumer experiences it, what does it say about paying for it after? That’s essentially what this recommendation feature would be, after all. And I think it’s far from obviously crazy.

Maybe many people would be willing to pay five cents to forward the full text of an article to a pal. But it’s important to remember that what you’re doing when you recommend an article to a buddy. You’re trying it on, testing it out. You’re decreasing your pal’s risk that he’ll read the article and conclude he wasted his time. In short, you’re adding value, helping both the publisher and presumably your pal too.

This is of course ultimately why people are so hot to trot about linking, curating, aggregating, filtering, etc. It’s the economics of attention in a world of blooming, buzzing, atomized media. (UPDATE: It’s “superdistribution.”) So it would be awesome if a newspaper could get people to pay in order to add value to their content. But to the extent that charging for the ability to make recommendations will actually disincentivize them from adding that value, there’s an important bit of cost-benefit analysis to do.

Of course, people could still recommend the article without paying the five-cent fee, leaving their pals to sign up and pay ten cents if they’re not already customers, but I wonder whether that wouldn’t turn out to seem just rude in light of the fact that you and your pal probably have basically the same purchasing power with respect to five- or ten-cent articles.

Finally, I’ll repeat that this is why I’m so bullish on the proposition that journalists need to find in-demand scarce goods and services whose value is relatively easily quantified before the point of purchase. This is what I was thinking about in my recent post “Freemium News,” which was itself a reaction to Mitch Ratcliffe’s excellent thoughts on “the economics of great journalism.” My sense is that forwarding articles for free might be the kind of discrete, non-experiential feature for which someone might be willing to pay a flat upfront fee.

Open Salon on CJR

After none too few rounds of editing—which is decidedly not to say they weren’t thoroughly helpful—my piece about Salon.com’s newest adventure in blogging is up for your leisurely weekend enjoyment at the Columbia Journalism Review. Hot dog!

Thanks go to my friend and editor. He’s the kind of guy who works really hard, gets tired because of all that work, loves to sleep because of how tired he is, but is called indefatigable anyhow. Justin Peters, everyone! You may know him from such happy locales as diaperville, USA.

The trend is your friend (@vctips)

“…demonstrate how a market is or will be growing in alignment with your business. timing is everything.”

http://twitter.com/vctips/statuses/899488783

And so I say this: The concept of “following” made popular by twitter and friendfeed is an increasingly natural concept for users. Friendfeed has pushed the boundaries with its “hide” feature, allowing users to personalize the flow of information from their friends.

It’s time to expand beyond the notion of following friends and merge it with subscribing to feeds in general. The market for web apps where we “follow” and control the stream of information that’s most interesting to us is growing. It’s time to get ahead of the curve and get serious about following the news, personalized.

Features vs. Benefits: Don’t Forget

See here, slightly annotated with a humor joke:

Note the difference between features and benefits—and think about them. For example, a house that gives shelter and lasts a long time is made with certain materials and to a certain design; those are its features. Its benefits include pride of ownership, financial security (ha!), providing for the family, and inclusion in a neighborhood. You build features into your product or service so that you can sell the benefits.

Benefits are hard to write about concretely, almost to the point where thinking about their value becomes merely speculative. What’s pride of ownership really worth? What would people really pay for the marginal units of neighborhood inclusion that a house can impart over an apartment? Close to bullshit.

Only comparisons to similar cases really count. The comparisons can be direct, or they can be indirect and more creative. To the extent that they’re creative, however, they’re presumably less reliable, all else equal.

If your comparison is spot-on, but really creative, what makes it compelling to others, I suspect, says more about who’s listening than its internal logic.

So keep looking for listeners. Hard to know when to stop.


Josh Young's Facebook profile

What I’m thinking

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

What I'm saving.

RSS What I’m reading.

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.