There’s lots of good stuff in Rex Sorgatz’s Neiman Journalism Lab piece advocating the adoption of a “membership” type model by The New York Times (or any other press outlet for that matter), including the kinds of things that should be included in such a membership.
Using what they have learned from digital subscriptions, The New York Times should create an entirely new product around membership. This new brand would vastly expand the reach of the Times to new products, new platforms, and new revenue opportunities. To succeed, it needs to perfectly executed in two areas: It has to be cool (marketing) and it has to create value (product).
What he’s talking about is a variation on the theme that I’ve been hitting for a while now, which is that media outlets aren’t going to survive based on either A) Trying to do it better than the other guys or B) Racing to find the lowest common denominator faster than the others. Instead the ones that survive will be the ones who realize they need to create strong affiliations between themselves and the current and potential readership in the same way that every other brand is currently doing.
That includes a lot of the ideas on Rex’s list. But even outside of a formal “membership” program such as the one he outlines there are ways to do that. What’s difficult is that many of those lie outside traditional comfort areas for the press, including creating stronger “brands” out of writers that have halo effects on the core brand and other things that are more messy than what a dignified press outlet with a storied history might be accustomed to.
But it’s those sorts of tactics, combined with the bold initiatives like owning and managing a membership program that provides real value for the audience, that will allow some media outlets to keep doing what they’re doing. That’s vitally important, which makes the need for some drastic and radical reinvention all that much more necessary.