updating the newsagency business model

I just read a piece about the decline in sales for the traditional newsagency here in Australia. With falling sales in printed news and magazines, and the move away from paper lottery tickets towards online purchasing the best they could come up with was to sell ink cartridges or turn into coffee shops. A bit lazy I thought.

Is the whole coffee drinking/cafe culture thing really relevant? I don’t really buy it myself. Sure, we might eat and drink whilst we read but is that really a value add? Same goes for printer ink. It just feels like someone in marketing has analysed last years sales results and picked a couple of areas that held out a decent margin and growth. Be a bit visionary here. Give me something to throw at a damn big screen when I read the news. please

So, here is a brief line of thinking. Assuming that newsagencies want to stay focused on media consumption, and would like to differentiate from an actual coffee shop which has free newspapers in it, what else can they do?

  • Fancy Hardware: Big screens, tabletop touch screens, ipads on loan, and proper broadband speeds. Maybe a bit capital intensive, but definitely better than the dog slow wifi speeds we are getting in Oz (if you want to read your online news on the bus), and who doesn’t want to use a really big touch screen?
  • Social Spaces: they’ll need to be a bit different to sitting in Starbucks, how about open news discussions (through linked screens etc), or the ability to leave messages/annotation for the next reader. This culd be software, blackboards etc. But it needs to be better than dropping a comment on FaceBook or mumbling your outrage to yourself as you read the latest news on public sector unions and their ridiculous claims (or whatever gets your goat). Frustration forums, venting machines…the list goes on.
  • Subscription services: I’ve always liked browsing through random titles in the news agency. Online its a bit harder. Why not try and extend the online competition by managing people’s subscriptions for them. Recommendations, trial periods, etc could enable the news agent to become your guide to all things worthy of your attention. There sure is a lot of crap out there, sometimes we just need a guide. I’m happy to walk into a bottle shop and take advice on what to drink, why not take a bit of expert advice on what to read?
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