Don’t overlook the home of Microsoft, Amazon, Zillow and other innovative companies large and small when looking for voices in media thought leadership. Below are observations and insights from a handful of the city’s media leaders that I collected while accompanying a Missouri School of Journalism innovation and entrepreneurship class as they visited each venue.

David Pelter, vice president of product development and management, The Seattle Times

If someone were to ask you to name the legacy news organizations that come to mind when considering innovation you’d likely list The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News and The Guardian, among others. Yet The Seattle Times has been challenging itself about as long as anyone else. My personal observation has been that the team has tried mightily, but succeeded less spectacularly. But they never quit trying. This year, with some new players in new positions and some robust research under their belts, the team is hitting on most cylinders.

Pricing is the big target, and has been for the past couple of years. RJI’s Esther Thorson and the University of Missouri Trulaske College of Business’ Murali Mantrala have done market analysis of readers’ preferences for bundling platform access (print + digital/desktop, desktop + mobile, print + mobile, etc.) and the price points that the market would bear for each bundle. From that the Times can better plan an approach that would satisfy readers and bring the most value to sustaining the Times.

Pelter recently joined the Times from the airline industry where he worked on dynamic pricing — pricing changes as seats become scarcer and/or as time shortens before departure. Scarcity and deadlines have long been familiar parameters for news organizations, though scarcity has become difficult to manage amid an overabundance of content. A few of Pelter’s insights:

  • Learn how to price your product. Make it easy to say yes. If the UX (user experience) has too many clicks, is too slow, or is hard to navigate, you’ll lose the sale regardless of the price. And the Times has noticed that anything over $10 slows down conversion. So he’s paying attention to both the UX and pricing models/options.
  • What’s unique about newspaper pricing? It’s weekly. No other industry prices itself weekly. Monthly or annual, yes; weekly, no.
  • What’s key about the audience? It was mass; now it’s all about segmentation.
  • What’s key and necessary for content? It must be relevant and compelling.
  • Website refresh: For digital-born websites, it’s typically every two years. For The Seattle Times, it’s been every five years. As an industry, we need to upgrade more often, more frequently.
  • Audience: It’s all about who, not how many. We must focus on Influencers vs. passive readers.

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Brian Steffens  
Director of Communications


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