It’s all about discovery

The biggest problem online since the turn of the Century has been that it’s really hard to discover new stuff. Not find stuff: discovery isn’t the same thing. If I know roughly what I want, Google makes it easy to find. But finding things that I might like that I don’t know about yet? Much harder.

Part of discovery is about social. If my friends like something, I might like it too. But part of it is also about taking time to browse, and the problem, in media at least, is that good places to browse which have multiple possibilities are few and far between.

That’s why I’m not surprised at the success of projects like Apple’s Newsstand in iOS 5:

Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman reports that Newsstand, the long-awaited feature in Apple’s newly released operating system for iPhones and iPads is causing explosive growth in news app downloads. A stunning 1.8 million iPhone users downloaded NYT’s free app last week, eighty-five times the rate of a week earlier, Sonderman reports, and the iPad app’s downloads were up seven times, to 189,000.

(via Audit Notes: Paying for Newspapers Edition)

Before anyone starts muttering “but that works on a closed system” under their breath, it can work on the web too. Take Slovakia’s Piano Media as an example:

For Piano Media, it gains that awareness through a thin, top bar appearing across its nine member websites. (That bar is much like CircLabs has touted in its “Circulate” concept.) Click on that banner and you get this offer: “For a single monthly payment, you can get shared access to premium content on 9 different websites.” Your choices: €0.99 for a day, €2.90 for a month, or €29 for a year. (Is “nine, nine, nine” spreading?) Sign in and get access to all: one price, one login recognized persistently by all member sites. Most buyers opt for the monthly deal.

So this is a newsstand — but it’s not a kiosk, a difference Bella emphasizes. A kiosk just lets you buy a single title, from a collection. It makes use of collective marketing, but doesn’t make use of how we like to digitally read, a little of this, a little of that, without barriers.

(via The newsonomics of Piano Media » Nieman Journalism Lab)

I’m convinced we’ll see more and more media adopt the newsstand model.