Measure Twice, Cut Once When Rethinking a Business Model

September 19, 2008

My grandfather was a contractor and, like many, was fond of the "Measure twice, cut once" mantra. This week, I found myself thinking of that phrase following the arrival of one of my favorite publications. I was dismayed when the gaudy dust jacket informed me that it would be my last issue.

It seems producing a niche publication for a limited audience wasn't bringing in the right kind of revenue. Another magazine bites the dust. The dust jacket tried to reassure me, however, that I could still enjoy the same in-depth articles and stunning artwork by purchasing an online subscription—at a discount, no less.

Thanks, but no thanks. I know, I work for a web marketing firm, so I'm supposed to support media digitization, right? Not necessarily. You see, part of the satisfaction I derive from taking a publication stems from sitting by my window, grasping those glossy pages in my hands, and digesting the words at the same rate I do my coffee: slowly.

Like many consumers, my online reading habits aren't conducive to laborious study. Moreover, online and offline consumer behaviors are quite different. This begs the question: Why would I pay $12.95/month to access information I can likely find elsewhere for—oh, let's say—$0.00?

Ultimately, consumers generally don't want to pay for online content, and while corporate America has been slow to grasp this, it's catching on. There are some detractors, of course, and they're generally being roasted for it. Even that grand dame of journalism, The New York Times, has opened its vaults.

This brings me back to my grandfather's mantra. When rethinking your business model, consider your customer retention goals—don't just assume they'll follow you into the abyss. Do your homework and be prepared to start from scratch with new markets. Measure twice, cut once.