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The Working Group Blog: Beacon

Three ideas that will make you see news in a different way

Media disruption is everywhere. Traditional newspaper businesses are hustling to explore new revenue models, and there is an emerging suite of exciting startups out there rethinking how to build profitable companies based around news content.

We spend a lot of our time here at The Working Group thinking about the relationship between digital product strategy and business strategy. Recently, by taking part in events like TechRaking, we’ve been able to chat to journalists and media professionals about the challenges in the news industry and share some of our insights from the startup space into ways to tackle those challenges.

Here are three cool digital products we’ve found recently exploring new revenue models around the creation and consumption of news content. In this post we’ve also included a sample Lean Canvas (one of our favourite business model tools) for you to explore. 

1. Beacon

The Working Group Blog: Beacon

Image via Beacon

What they say: “The web has forever changed the way we produce and consume information, but fundamentally the relationship between reader and writer remains the same. Journalists have stories to tell, readers are listening. Beacon is a simple platform that lets writers connect with readers that value their work.”

Beacon is a simple platform that lets writers connect with readers that value their work. Billed as ‘Netflix for news’, readers pay a monthly subscription fee of $5 to fund the writer of their choice. In exchange, they get access to all of the content on the Beacon site. Writers receive 70% of their subscription revenue, with another portion going towards a bonus pool paid out to those who wrote the more recommended stories each month. The company keeps the rest.

With 100+ writers and several thousand subscribers already using the site, Beacon is exploring new revenue models by applying crowdfunding principles and subscription-based payments to individual storytellers.



2. The Information

The Working Group: The Information

Image via TheInformation

What they say: “Get access to breaking news and analysis about the technology industry you won’t find elsewhere. Be the first to know what’s going on at technology giants like Google, Apple and Facebook, and go deep inside global tech investing trends. Subscription includes access to daily articles, bonus newsletters and free subscriber events around the world. All for around a dollar a day.”

Founded by former Wall Street Journal journalist Jessica E. Lessin, The Information is a subscription-based publication and newsletter for professionals who need the inside scoop on technology news and trends. The model is similar to Jason Calcanis’ – for $39/month, subscribers reap the benefits of great stories built around the team’s great contact lists.

“When we write great stories, we get great subscribers. In today’s competitive market, the business model depends first and foremost on what’s in the writing.” – Jessica Lessin

The Information has eight core team members, five of which are reporters. The startup drew some snarky criticism at launch, but, as Business Insider’s Chief Correspondent Nicholas Larson points out, “if you figure the cost of each employee is about $100,000, then The Information only needs to find about 2k annual subscribers to break even. At that point, Lessin will have created a media company that pays five journalists solid full-time wages.”


3. NYT Now

The Working Group: NYT Now

Image via NYT

What they say: “For the moments when you only have a moment. NYT Now offers a new way to stay up to the minute with the world’s finest journalism. Our editors select from the day’s top stories, with summaries and updates to keep you current on the news you need to know.”

Outside of the startup space, major media companies are also exploring new business models in order to retain their relevancy. The New York Times’ NYT Now costs subscribers $2/week and serves up 30-40 articles a day, curated by the NYT Now editors. It offers concise article summaries and a twice-daily briefing as well as a curated feed of articles, quotes, tweets, and other news items pulled from external sources.

“The new app is not designed for current readers of the Times,” writes Mashable’s Jason Abbruzze.

“It is meant to attract an audience that the paper has had trouble tapping – the mobile-first reader. It is the first clear admission from the Times that the strength of its product alone is not enough to counter the growth of mobile consumption.”


Tools: Using The Lean Canvas To Test New Business Models

Time will tell how successful these models will be in attracting and retaining customers and generating revenue for these companies. If you’re thinking about developing a new product for your company or starting from scratch with a whole new idea, the Lean Canvas is one tool you can use to help you increase your chances of success.

We use the Lean Canvas all the time here at The Working Group to help our partners plan, refine and test their ideas. Created by Ash Mauyra, The Lean Canvas is a fast alternative to creating a full business plan. It’s a tool for brainstorming possible business models, prioritizing where to start, and tracking ongoing learning.  It helps you turn your idea into a set of assumptions which you can then test by going out and talking to potential customers. It’ll help your think about every aspect of your business and stop you from getting too fixated on a single idea. It helps you answer that all-important question, DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WORTH SOLVING? 

Here is a sample Lean Canvas based on (what we think about) The Information. We’ve also included a blank template for you to use yourself!


The Working Group: The Lean Canvas

The Working Group: Lean Canvas

About The Working Group

Good people. Great work. We design and engineer web and mobile products for growing startups and national brands, and partner with promising startups through our startup acceleration program. Est. 2002


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