Monday, February 9, 2009

Using push-tech for digital delivery

I am an advocate for newspapers using push technologies--applications where the newspaper sends content out to its audience, who have typically subscribed to the content. This is directly analogous to delivery to print subscribers.

It contrasts with pull technologies like RSS for example, where the audience uses and RSS reader that requests (pulls) the content from the newspaper's server.

The strength of push out products is that local advertisers can understand them the way they understand a print ad--it is "going out" there to people's doorsteps, or in the case of email, to the inbox that people check first thing in the morning.

My company has been working on an email edition product for some time. People tend to find us because they want to promote their website, but are surprised when they see how well it works with local advertising.

It is not spam if it is local. AP stories in your inbox are annoying, but stories about your community are useful. The key is to have local advertising focus on time-specific promotions and coupon deals. For example, you have local restaurants place a discount coupon in an email edition for days of the week when lunch crowds are lower. That coupon is placed in content sent to subscribers' emails every morning, and seen when people are thinking about what they will do for lunch.

Newspapers' opportunities in local content and advertising with push technologies will grow as content is increasingly consumed through mobile devices, such as the iPhone and the Kindle. Rather than speculating on what will be, this blog would rather keep you posted on developments as they occur. But needless to say, mobile alerts and some of iPhone applications from the likes of NYT and BBC are only the beginning.

Comparing to Pull Technology
The weakness of pull products for newspapers is two-fold. Firstly, it's tough to brand the content because it tends to be aggregated with other content--how can you tell how the end user is mixing it with other content? Secondly, for RSS in particular, it requires your audience to be pretty web-savvy. If it is tough for the average user to understand, you can be guaranteed it will be a tough sell to local advertisers.

The best thing to do with RSS and other pull technologies in my view is to send out limited stories, and force the user to click back to the website to see the whole story, so they can engage in the website's advertising. Internal advertisements, such as "click here to place a classified ad" are a good idea as well.

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