On work media products | The Humane Club Made with Humane Club
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I've 15 years of experience in media product & technology. By day, I work at a mainstream news site. Prior to this, I was a Knight Fellow with ICFJ.org and have co-founded two companies. All views expressed here are my personal opinions.
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I've 15 years of experience in media product & technology. By day, I work at a mainstream news site. Prior to this, I was a Knight Fellow with ICFJ.org and have co-founded two companies. All views expressed here are my personal opinions.

On work media products

Published Jun 06, 2021
Updated Nov 28, 2021

Previously, we discussed escape products. The polar opposite of escape products is work products.

Work activities are cognitively heavy tasks that require intent, concentration, and decision-making. 

Work products help users complete well-defined, cognitively heavy tasks and then get out of the way so people can get back to their lives. In return, customers pay with money. Following are examples of work media products.

  • Knowing which airlines to book for a trip is a work media product.
  • Understanding which fish has low mercury levels, high omega-3, fit within your budget, and is available in your local area is a work media product.
  • Every morning, getting a list of what media coverage you, your business, or your topic of interest has received is a work media product.
  • Reading news in the context of the stocks you own is a work media product.
  • In Mumbai’s crowded subway, helping people know which train will start from the station you board from and when is a work media product. M-Indicator app solves it.

Characteristics of work media products

Most work products have a spatial bias, i.e., the product has a clear start and end and tends to have a longer shelf life. They measure success by:

  • Effectiveness: How effectively they can get the job done and get out of the way.
  • Clarity: Does the target market know what they are optimizing.

Positioning work media products is critical.

Classifying something as a work product is very much dependent on a person’s context.

For example, when booking an airline ticket, some people want to find the cheapest ticket from place A to B. Alternatively, other people might want to find a flight that fits well with your meeting schedule. But in most situations — you might want the ticket timing to not only meet your meeting schedule but also be cost-effective.

For example, a fund manager might classify a service that provides her with daily updates on her stocks as a work product. But if the same product is targeted to a casual trader, they might not find as much value in investing in such a service.

Building work products is a positive-sum game. Multiple work products can co-exist because different user groups define effectiveness differently, e.g., fast, low price, fashionable, luxurious, convenience, etc.

People pay $ for work news products that help professionals with insights.

These work products are news-plus products that directly contribute to a consumer’s professional commitment. These audiences already know what is happening but are willing to pay a premium to build a (deep) perspective on why something matters and how one should think about it. Below are some examples:

  • EPW (Economic and Political Weekly) is a work product for social science researchers and students.
  • Professionals in India serving clients in the Western World can consider The Economist a work product to build an international perspective.
  • 2pml is a paid work media product that analyzes the intersection of media and commerce.
  • In many ways, The Hindu is a work product for civil services aspirants in India.
  • YouTube is an escape product. Masterclass is a work product. Though, both are video technologies.

From 2013 till 2018, I ran Pykih, a software development agency. Back then, one of my favorite work products was ThoughtWork’s RADAR. Every time a customer asked for a new technology stack, we would collectively look at the RADAR to evaluate if we should adopt it.

ThoughtWorks Radar is a work media product

People pay $$$$$ for work news products that help transform.

Suppose you expect your income to rise in the future. In that case, you will typically borrow today and increase your demand for certain goods.

Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, Microeconomics 101, Page 69

Venture capitalist Li Jin introduces transformative products as exclusive, ROI-positive content that is constructive in one’s life or business. It is similar to one hiring an expert (interior designer, coach) in offline work. Most transformative media products exist in the research, upskilling, training, self-help, and wellness domains.

  • Skift Research sells industry research reports on the travel industry priced at thousands of dollars a year. 
  • Seth Godin runs community-based learning courses that sell for hundreds of dollars. On this, Kevin Kelly adds, “When copies are free, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable.” In-person learning along with a community is scarce. 

Implications on the future of journalism

So this happened recently.

A RISJ report worries that if journalism is put behind a paywall, a bulk of the population will be devoid of hard news.

“With more high-quality journalism disappearing behind registration barriers and paywalls, the democratic dangers may also become more apparent in the year ahead. The fear is that serious news consumption will be largely confined to elites who can afford to pay, while the bulk of the population pick up headlines and memes from social media or avoid the news altogether.”

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) report: “Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2020.”

If your news business manages to monetize via transformative products, then the journalism itself can be free.