Waiting for a new Business Model

The search for a new business model or new version which makes more sense today is a recurring background story or theme in many business sectors.

A truly great business is one that re-invents itself and especially the business model like Shai Agassi is doing with the Electric car.

Local debate on whether or not paid content models can work has prompted some discussion but in my view we need to dig a bit deeper.

Media businesses who previously were gatekeepers of scarce information could ration out their product or service and earn a very good rate of return. For well over a decade now newspapers and all forms of media are at various levels waiting for a new business model to rescue them.

Classified advertising has left the building, ad blockers, ad blindness and general abundance of news sources means that readers follow the path of least resistance and that is away from mainstream formats.

“Vivian Mercier – famous for describing Waiting for Godot as a play which “has achieved a theoretical impossibility—a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps audiences glued to their seats.

What’s more, since the second act is a subtly different reprise of the first, he has written a play in which nothing happens, twice.” from Wikipedia

I saw that play a very long time ago and while no- one can really agree on what is happening it seems to be universally relevant and pushes the right emotional and/or idea buttons in the audience who engage enough of the time to connect with themes and archetypes in the play.

At the risk of glossing over the play (go and see it some time) one of the key ideas I took from it was that we often think that if events / people arrived we would recognise them even though we have no real idea of exactly what or whom they might be or when.

It becomes a kind of “we’ll know it when we see it” continuing cycle of hopefulness and disappointment as different outcomes are explored.

This is pretty much the state of play in many publishing businesses now.

When your business model gets turned upside down and news is a commodity it becomes much harder to justify investment in resources to write, collect, edit and compile all of the content into some form of media offering – especially online.

Spinning in the Grave – The three biggest reasons music magazines are dying. By Jonah Weiner (hat tip to @mrinternet (Nigel Horrocks) for pointing this story out.)

“One of the most important historical functions of music magazines has been precisely to speak in a semisecret language that separates in-the-know us from square them.”

reason 3 – Music magazines were an early version of social networking. But now there’s this thing called “social networking” …

Jonah has enough of a story to keep our attention for a few minutes but Godot never turns up.

That is the writing does explore some of the reasons why music magazines in particular are dying but I’d rather read about where they are succeeding and I suspect I am not alone in that thought.

My belief is that successful future publishing business models will be more narrow-casting than broadcasting. They will offer huge depth of compelling content rather than trying to be all things to all people.

The music website that is closest to this model now is Rocks Back Pages which has something like 15,000 articles for a subscription fee. There is a whole lot more community that RBP could leverage off the content but its a steps closer to a viable model.

Last weeks post came out before the Media 7 version where Bernard Hickey and Barry Colman went into the studio with Russell Brown to talk through some of these ideas. (see clip below)

Another view on the NBR model is by Bill Bennett over here.

There will be more than one model that will work and the balance of workable formats will change.

Will we know when the right business model turns up?

Will we ever get to meet Godot?

Your comments / thoughts please.

Note: Now that I’ve finished this post I just found out that Alan Rooks wrote about the Paper Industry in 2003 and made some similar comparisons.

I’m just waiting for someone to describe Twitter as the “Godot Syndrome” which turns out to be an actual type of anxiety condition “repeatedly asking questions on a forthcoming event” just like what are you doing? seems to me.

Watching the tweet stream slip by in a tangle of half connections and random combinations at at once comforting and disconcerting – just like waiting for a new business model.