Is Creating a Unique Experience Enough To Get People to Pay for Digital Content?

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John Loughlin, Executive VP and GM of Hearst Magazines, which publishes Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Popular Mechanics, and other popular titles, provided an inside look into Hearst's content strategy for the digital age here at ad:tech NY. 

Do you think Hearst's success in traditional publishing will extend to triumph in the online world? Let us know in the comments section.

With 14 magazines and 23 sites, the company has 40 apps to accompany them. "Our digital library is a huge asset," he said, later adding "It's not just the assets. It's what you do with them."

Hearst goes well beyond simply re-creating its print experiences for digital platforms whether they be the publications' websites or mobile apps. For its sites it creates unique content. For its apps it not only creates unique content, but unique app experiences altogether. Many of Heart's brand apps offer different services or entertaining experiences that aren't just reading. And this goes beyond even video, audio, and animation. It's about creating a interesting experience. 

John Loughlin of Hearst Talks Digital Content Strategy

None of these apps are free. Loughlin says that while much of the Blogosphere says this stuff should be free, he disagrees, noting that these bloggers should see the bills that come along with developing this stuff. 

"It's not just about brand exposure," said Loughlin. "It's about creating a sufficiently strong impression."

"When people ask me, 'Is print dead?' I say hell no" he added.

Hearst's paid print subscriptions sold via the web have gone up significantly in the last four years.

While I've long been skeptical of the notion that a substantial amount of people will pay for digital content when there is so much other content available for free, 

Hearst has the right idea when it comes to making this work, I think, if it’s really going to.  It's all about keeping it unique and creating interesting experiences beyond just readable (or even watchable or listenable) content.

Let us know what you make of Loughlin's thoughts -- and if you have any additional ideas -- in the comments section.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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