Monthly Archives: October 2009 charges for mobile content on updated iPhone app

wjs-iphone-app-premium-contentEarlier this year, the Wall Street Journal released an iPhone app called the iPhone Mobile Reader. The iPhone application allowed users to access premium content that was only available to paid print and digital subscribers for free (source). But as of October 24, 2009, content is no longer free.

I spoke with the online circulation desk and learned that digital subscribers now have to pay $1 per week or $52 a year to access the content via the iPhone Mobile Reader. Print subscribers can access the content for free while non-subscribers have to pay $4 a week.

It should come as no surprise that the Wall Street Journal has decided to charge for their content. A report this week by the Audit Bureau of Circulations showed that newspaper sales have dropped by more than 10% in the past 6 months in comparison to the same period last year (source). There are two other major factors that are making matters worse:

  • Newspapers are seeing a slide in advertising sales (Gannett recently reported a 28% drop in advertising).
  • Subscribers are accessing their news content online. They are also expecting to access that content for free, like they currently do with video content from the major television networks.

As a fan of The Wall Street Journal, I can understand the newspaper’s desire to squeeze a few more dollars out of their shrinking pool of subscribers. However, I’m disappointed that they have decided to tack on a “convenience” charge to access their content via the iPhone, especially if you’re already a digital subscriber. Why can’t they simply use my credentials to authenticate me and give me access to the content that I’ve already paid for? While I can use my current credentials and mobile Safari browser to visit the website, the experience is just not user friendly. I think that it is absurd to pay a premium twice to access the same content.

I’m hoping that this experiment will follow the way of NBC’s futile attempt to improve the bottom line by having Jay Leno at the 10 PM timeslot.

Amazon focuses on customer experience, sees improving sales

Online retailer recently blew out revenue estimates by posting a 28% rise in quarterly revenue to $5.45 B for Q3 2009. According to the conference call transcript (source), the improvements were due to a few factors, including:

  • Continued focus on Amazon’s value proposition: low prices, expansion of selection, convenience, and good in-stock levels.
  • Availability of Amazon Prime program, which allows customer to enjoy “all-you-can-eat” fast shipping on eligible purchases for an annual membership fee of $79.

Amazon Logo (small)Amazon has leveraged their low prices to attract buyers. While pricing is important to these visitors, the online customer experience helps convinces them to complete the purchase vs. going to a rival retailer. For example, Amazon monitors when a customer drills down on to a specific product and uses email to send them special pricing for that item if they don’t purchase it. Amazon has been able to expand their selection of products by offering better tools to sellers, which is another area that Amazon invests heavily to keep their brick-and-mortar competition in check. In addition to these, there are many other feature that Amazon has refined over the years to improve the online experience (view analysis of Amazon’s online experience).

According to a 2008 study by ServiceXRG (source), customers are 3X more likely to to buy a product or service and 4X times more likely to recommend the company or renew the relationship if they have a positive experience. The recent quarter at Amazon is a testament that you can own the market place by implementing only a few simple, fundamental changes.

Microsoft Bing attempts to threaten Google with Twitter Indexing

TwitterThere’s rarely a day that goes by where Microsoft and Google don’t challenge each other. They battle to control every aspect of our digital world, including email (hotmail vs. gmail), the browser (IE vs. Chrome), the desktop (Microsoft Office vs. Google Docs) and of course search (Microsoft Bing vs. Google Search). While Google has continued to gain ground on Microsoft, Yahoo and others, a new search competitor, albeit small, called Twitter has emerged.

Why Twitter? Well, besides serving as social networking tool for celebrities, Twitter also provides a stream of breaking news and real time events. For example, if I am looking to learn about the latest developments in SharePoint, I avoid the search engines because the news that I’ll read there will be at least 24 hours old. Instead, I search for tweets with SharePoint as a word or hashtag in Twitter. The search results present me with a quick list of the latest developments.

Both Microsoft and Google both recognize this deficiency but only Microsoft has first responded to this need. They beat Google to the punch with the recent announcement that tweets from Twitter will now be indexed and served up alongside Bing results (source). The meshing of Bing and Twitter is good for both tools/companies:

  • Search engines have always had search for content on their own. They leveraged the spiders to crawl and index new content or asked website owners to submit XML sitemaps to uncover more content and links. But Twitter serves as a new source of link that can provider links to the freshest content around.
  • Developers can create applications using the Twitter API so the idea of serving ads alongside tweets was a bit complex. By offering the data to search engines, Twitter has identified a revenue stream without having to depend on an ad-based revenue model.
  • Data that Twitter collects (and I’ve got to imagine that they are collecting a ton of data) is only available for a limited amount of time (typically 7 – 14 days). Many developers have used this limitation to develop an app that persists the data for an extended period of time. But if Bing or Google starts storing that data, Developers could potentially turn to these search engines to mine Twitter data.

Microsoft seems to be trying to distinguish Bing as a leader in search engines. Bing has challenged Google on other fronts, including image search capabilities, where you see an endless set of results, and video search capabilities, where you can play a video without having to leave the results. With tweets alongside search results, Microsoft may be able to take more market share from Google. While a market share loss of  may not seem to be much when Google still has a dominant position, it does translate to a greater loss when one considers that 97% of Google’s revenue is dependent on search.

NOTE: For now, you can search within the latest tweets using the new Bing Twitter engine (source).