Why Apple’s 10 billionth download and Johnny Cash matters to newspapers

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Congratulations to 71-year-old Louie Sulcer who is the lucky winner of buying and downloading the 10 billionth song from Apple’s iTunes. Mr. Sulcer get a $10,000 gift card from Mr. Jobs and Co.

So why should newspapers care about this — other than the human interest feature story?

Here’s some quick thoughts:

  • Downloading, grandpa, retirees. Not the exact picture of the bleeding edge of the digital frontier, right? I fully expected the winner to be a college student or a hipster at the least. Lesson to be learned: Seniors are not stuck in their ways (print) and are open to new experiences (digital), so don’t forget to give your sites the ability for customization (larger type) and just don’t try to appeal to the 30 and below crowd.

  • Marketing. Yes, newspapers market, but when’s the last time your local paper did some, break-room-dramatic marketing? Well, let’s see, there was that anniversary issue where they highlighted their accomplishments for the last xxx years. It was full of ads from local business congratulating them. So what did they do for readers of their millionth page printed? Their millionth subscription or even their ten thousandth? Lesson to be learned: Do something dramatic for your readers — or at least one lucky reader. Do something. Take some big, bold risks. Stop the long whine about how you’ve losing readers.

  • iTunes Music Store. It’s only been around since 2003. Don’t recall that rollout? I recall that people whined that it didn’t do enough, there were other applications did more or did it better; there were not enough songs and among other things the pricing model was going to portend its doom. Now, the ITMS is the largest music retailer in the U.S. Interestingly, music is now the least of the ITMS. There are more applications (133,000), Podcasts (150,000), iTunes U courses (75,000) than there are music tracks (11,000), Lesson to be learned: Industry leader or industry strong arm, Apple’s iTunes Music Store is a model that should be followed by the newspaper industry. And how can they do that?Let’s see, maybe by offering something that people want to buy and give them an experience that they can’t find at other web sites. Which leads me to …

  • New technolgy / iPad. It’s not even here yet and it’s changing how we will interact with the Internet. Yes it is. Even if you don’t know it. Newspaper owners need to admit that it’s been a good 2,000-year run for the printed product and jump onto the digital bandwagon. Jump faster. Jump higher. The assault on the printed news page began in the early 1930s in Round I when a new-fangled invention called the radio started to become widespread. Round II came a decade later with the advent of television and Round III was the Internet. So far print has taken a beating in Round III. To cope, newspaper pushed their content online without much regard on the user experience, let along what the user wanted. Lesson to be learned: It’s time to get past this shovelware mode and start thinking about real innovation. I repeat from earlier posts.. Let’s look at the iPad and do something cool. Let’s be part of the next billionth download!

  • Oh, almost forgot… Why should newspapers care about the Man in Black?

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    CREDIT: The Associated Press

    JR never quit and never gave up. Through all his personal drama he kept writing and singing great songs. Although Mr. Sulcer downloaded “Guess Things Happen That Way,” a Cash tune 52 years old, take a list to JR’s latest — released this week American VI: Ain’t No Grave. I daresay that it’s one of his best. Lesson to be learned: It ain’t over til it’s over and even then it’s not over. Never give up, never surrender! (Bonus points if you can ID that last quote.)

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