The business platform for digital media

Give the Gift of Great Content!

Jun 26, 2013

Earlier this month we rolled out a new feature for our publishing partner The Dish from Andrew Sullivan.  The team at The Dish has been great to work with and we have collaborated on a number of features since they joined the Tinypass fold back in January.  The latest wrinkle involves being able to gift someone a year-long subscription to The Dish.   Check it out here –

Dishhead’s asked for the ability to easily spread the work from Andrew and his stellar team and Tinypass delivered.  Though launched to coincide with a special occasion, Father’s Day, gifting is a feature that will be available 365, 24/7.  In The Dish’s own words:

…the gifting option is here forever and is meant for everyone and anyone you’d like to invite to the Dish’s conversation. That co-worker you keep forwarding posts to? The atheist friend who wants to read an honest debate about faith? The sibling who’d love the Window View contest – if only she were given a chance to get into it? The roommate who thinks gays are icky? Or just a friend you’d love to chat with about stuff in the Dish but who doesn’t read it yet?

Invite them into the debate – by giving them a gift.

We will be rolling out this great feature to all of our publishing partners later this summer.  We will give you a heads up once it is open to the entire Tinypass community.

Tinypass & Narrative 4

Jun 11, 2013

Tinypass is honored to be keeping company with some extraordinary talents – including winners of the National Book Award, the Booker Prize, the Peabody, the Grammys, the Pulitzer, and the National Magazine Awards, to name a few – all in support of a great cause.

It all began earlier this year when we were approached by Esquire magazine regarding the launch of a non-profit organization called Narrative 4.  Co-founded by authors Colum McCann and Luis Alberto Urrea, Narrative 4 seeks to promote social change through storytelling.  The organization describes its mission as follows:

We believe sharing stories is the key to opening the world. We call it “Fearless hope through radical empathy.”

At Narrative 4, we believe the world is forever changed when we share our stories.

Although storytelling is an ancient and universal human activity, Narrative 4 helps people all over the world tell their stories in a new and powerful way. We identify those who may not have been heard—whether it be teens from the south side of Chicago or on the streets of Dublin, or under-represented youth in Kabul or in the Barrio—and offer them sanctuary to share significant stories from their lives. The key to transformation lies in the sharing: when you hear someone else’s story deeply enough to inhabit it and re-tell it as if you have lived it, you become “the other” and see the world through her eyes. The power is in the active act of receiving and caring for another’s story. It is Radical Empathy.

Narrative 4’s first project, in partnership with Esquire, is “How to Be a Man,” a collection of stories by more than 100 of the world’s greatest authors.  The stories can be found here  For a modest donation, powered by Tinypass, visitors are granted unlimited access to all of the stories on the site.

We continue to marvel at the creative ways that people use Tinypass and we are especially hopeful for this newest wrinkle, the combination of art and technology to help promote positive change in the world.

Digital Distribution…Beyond the Usual Suspects

Apr 15, 2013

When the Financial Times (FT) decided in July 2011 to ignore Apple’s Newsstand in favor of making their own HTML5 app, the news raised a lot of eyebrows.  Some praised the move as a bold challenge to Apple’s hegemony while others called it a naive and potentially suicidal denial of the realities of modern media consumption.  By July 2012 the results of the gamble were clear as total subscriptions to the FT rose 6% and the number of digital subscribers to the FT eclipsed print customers and now make up more than half of the company’s nearly 600,000 paying customers.

The FT, founded in 1888, has been around the block.  They’ve operated in every conceivable business environment and clearly asked themselves about our current one, “What are we getting for Apple’s 30% cut from our app sales?”  Conventional wisdom would say, “you have to be where people go to shop, i.e. the App Store.”  In another era, people said the same thing about the mall.  Remember those?

Now don’t get us wrong.  There is potential value in being in front of tens of millions of consumers.  Though the “in front of part” is a bit misleading.  When is the last time you ventured past the Top 10 Lists on the App Store?  Or, to go a bit off topic, checked out the second page of search results on Google?  If anything, big numbers – number of visitors, number of apps – makes “content discovery”, as well as selling, potentially harder not easier.

But buying through Apple and Amazon and the like is so convenient.  Again, a valid point.  Tinypass is all for reducing friction in the purchase process, but at the cost of 30% of a content owner’s revenues?  Clearly the FT looked at the tradeoff and said, “no thank you.”

So, what to do?  You can lock into a single model, i.e. Apple, and handover 30% of the value of your content, or you can embrace a strategy that includes the entire landscape of distribution vehicles, from walled gardens to the open web.  This ubiquity of distribution is what new technologies like HTML5 and Tinypass are built to enable.  Your greatest content discovery strategy is your own brand, your own site, not a store that you share with millions of other competing offers.  Fans come to your site(s) everyday.  Don’t send them away to purchase your best offers.  Sell direct and reap the rewards.

The Digital Stock Keeping Unit (aka, the dSKU)

The Stock Keeping Unit – its acronym, SKU, serves as the phrase’s very own when it comes to English.  I learned in practice what a SKU was long before I ever came across the term in business school.  A single piece of gum at the Seven Eleven or a pack, a case of toilet paper at the Costco or a roll at the local Korean deli, a truck full of cement or a bag of dry mix from the hardware store, and following the post-war consumer revolution, whatever an individual desired has come in all shapes and quantities for all budgets and occasions.

One semi-exception to this rule has always been the world of print media.  I say semi because we could always purchase a single item off of the newsstand, i.e. a magazine, or several, i.e. a subscription to the same magazine, which we would regularly receive, no newsstand required.  Often the single purchase SKU would lead to more lucrative subscriptions for publishers.

Then along came the Internet, and as incredible as it may seem, when it comes to paying for content, our choices of what we would like to pay for online remain more limited than they are offline.  How could that be?

We all know the story that began in the mid-90s and is now, we here at Tinypass strongly believe, running its course.  Everything online wants to be FREE!!!!  All advertising, all the time enabled by journalism driven to “Top 10 Thats”, 20 Best This’”, slideshows, etc.  Or is it ads enabling the dumbing down of “online” journalism?  It’s getting so bad that they are running out of names for calling a spade a spade.  The newest term is “native advertising”.  Check out – how does that make you feel about the integrity of what you are consuming online?

“With the possible exception of the broadcast network monopoly that ended in the eighties, there has never been a working business model for quality content, in any medium, that could rely on advertising alone…and there never will be again.”

Jeff Bewkes, Chairman & CEO, Time Warner

I suppose that it is natural that as news and information providers come to the realization that some level of direct audience support is needed to sustain their businesses they have chosen the one, most lucrative SKU from their halcyon days, i.e. the subscription.  In their defense, it comes in different flavors, from “hard” to “porous”, I won’t bore you with all the permutations here, but at the end of the day it is still a subscription.  Think about that for a second, in a medium that allows you to peruse editorial content at its most granular level – an individual article, or passage, or quote, or video clip – it will only sell you a bundle of largely unrelated content.  Hell, you can’t even buy the equivalent of today’s newspaper online, you know, $1.99 for 24 hours of access to a site, much less access to just those sections, or columnists, or subject areas that matter to you most.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

In a world of infinite niches, curation, and content customization, we here at Tinypass believe that the time is long overdue for content providers to begin to think differently about their SKUs, about how they package what they sell.  There is untapped value in “Thinking Differently” when it comes to digital media.  The naysayers grumbled that it was sacrilegious to break up the LP.  See Steve Jobs.  Digital music sales, mainly all of those $0.99 purchases, now account for more than half of all music sales.

Well music, we are told, is different.  The conventional wisdom is that no one will buy content by “the drink”, primarily, the reasoning goes, because they never have.  Look, selling a subscription to your content, depending on who you are and what it is you are selling, can be the right answer for you and there is no better way of doing that today than using Tinypass.  But if subscriptions aren’t the right answer for you, don’t despair and conclude that there is nothing more you can do but cast your lot solely with the advertising gods.  People who won’t pay full-freight will pay for the niches that interest them.  We also firmly believe that people will pay for curation, for customization, for participation, for inclusion, for a look behind the scenes, for a taste of home.  The time is now to start uncovering what it looks like to pay for online content beyond the subscription.