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Newspaper websites set to become mobile shops as publishers look to open new digital revenue streams

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Print media companies are likely to become flexible retailers of content, digital materials and tangible goods – largely through mobile web and apps – if they are to survive the digital revolution, leading print media executives were told at a conference in London this week.

While the print media has been hit hard by falling advertising revenues and the perceived drain on subscription and copy sales brought about by free access to news on the web, many in the industry believe that simply charging for news content is not enough and that they have to become branded retailers of goods and services – both digital and tangible – as part of a move to develop new revenue streams.

“Multiple business models will have to exist for publishers and one of these will be retail,” Jonathan McDonald, former Blyk guru and now head of JME.net, told delegates at M-Publishing held in London on 1 June. “Newspapers are going to have to start looking at converging business models with other sectors to make new revenue to make up for falling ad sales – selling stuff related to either the content of the paper or the type of readership a publication has will expand greatly.”

Print publications have very tightly controlled demographics of loyal readers, access to their data and knowledge of their likes and dislikes. They also have their own means of advertising goods and services. All that is missing is bring in this together with the retail goods, believe many in the industry.

Newspapers and magazines can now not only carry adverts for goods, but also sell those goods to their readers as part of an all round experience and lifestyle based on the publications ethos, says McDonald.

By way of example, he cites the example of French train operator SNCF, which now not only uses online and mobile to sell train tickets, but also now sells books, e-books, games, music and other digital mobile content to its customers to consume on the journey.

“SNCF has become an experience retailer,” says McDonald. “It doesn’t sell train tickets, it sells train journeys – and that includes all the stuff that goes with going on a train journey to make it more pleasurable. We are going to see a lot more of this sort of cross business retailing happening in all sectors, but publishing is ripe for it as it already has a finger in that pie.

Many UK newspapers and magazines do have fledgling retail arms: Guardian Unlimited’s shop being one of them, which brings together all the offers on goods being sold through its newspaper into one handy online shop. This is going to also be added to the Guardian’s iPhone app at a later date.
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