Repackaging the unbundled

Scott Karp (yes, he’s my boss over at the office) is more fascinated than I am about Google’s new FastFlip, but he’s wisely focusing on the fact that it’s an experiment with a new user experience for online news, and not implying that it’s something poised to Save Journalism.

Scott’s latest post on the topic argues that “content doesn’t matter without the package.”

“Newspapers’ inability to generate the same revenue online as in print has nothing to do with content. It’s because on the web they are no longer in the business of packaging content, and that’s what the newspaper business, like every other media business, has always been about. Instead, media companies put their content on the web and let search and other aggregators package it.”

It’s that last part that’s most interesting. I mean, it’s no surprise that the news business in the age of the Web now operates in a world of unbundled media, where the mp3 is currency, and the album is an outdated package. The individual news story, blog post, or tweet is not something we’re willing to pay for as consumers, even though we might occasionally still drop a few quarters in a box for a Sunday New York Times print edition — a packaged product that includes a bunch of individual items and products that we’re interested in. (For me, it’s just about the crossword, and it’s been multiple years since I last purchased said paper for said purpose.)

But.  How do we consume all those broken up pieces of content, news, information, and commentary online?

Maybe we use Google Reader. (A package of RSS feeds we’ve selected.)

Or Twitter. (A package of microblogging feeds we’ve selected.)

Once upon a time, people paid for software like RSS readers. (NetNewsWire in its heyday.)

Today, some people pay for Twitter clients like Tweetie, and many, many more pay for iPhone apps that package individual bits and streams of information into a pleasant interface that minimizes both button-pushing and waiting, two things of limited desirability when a human being is mobile.

The iPhone app package is so useful and valuable to us as consumers, that we’re even willing to pay for niche content like a Miami Dolphins app from a news organization.

Questions:

  • What other repackaged interfaces for unbundled media will consumers be willing to pay for?
  • How do you consume news and information? Do you navigate from site to site, or do you operate a packaged interface?
  • Which companies, organizations, and individuals are winning at repackaging unbundled media?

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