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There is a fascinating article here, about the problems and opportunities facing the news industry.

The first half of it talks about consumers in general, with lessons that can apply to any industry or problem.

Takeaway item #1:

New entrants to a field establish a foothold at the low end [of the market] and move up the value network – eating away at the customer base of the incumbents – by using a scalable advantage and typically entering the market with a lower-margin profit formula.

Lesson here: don’t try to take on the biggest player in the industry directly.  Instead, pick a niche aspect and do that better, faster, cheaper etc.  Then build upon this capability as time goes by.

Item#2, the audience:

The basic idea is that people don’t go around looking for products to buy.  Instead, they take life as it comes and when they encounter a problem, they look for a solution – and at that point, they’ll hire a product or service.

The lesson: as it carries on to say, it is the job that people are doing (or activity they want to do) that is the thing to focus on, not the customer themselves.  As the article says, nobody buys a newspaper simply because they’re an 18-25 year-old, but these people are frequently in a position where they need one.

The customer segment will fall out of the job or task that the product is addressing.

Item #3:

I have 10 minutes to spare. Help me fill it with something interesting, or entertaining.

Lesson: smartphones have replaced physical magazines as time killers. Applications and content need to be packaged for quick, casual usage.

Item #4:

Successful companies understand the jobs that arise in people’s lives and develop products that do the jobs perfectly. And if a company does this, customers will instinctively ‘pull’ the product into their lives whenever that job arises.

The lesson: The product’s message must be crystal clear, and the job that it is fulfilling must be tightly packaged, with no distractions.  Achieving the ‘instinctive pull’ status should be the ultimate goal.


… it’s critical to avoid falling into the trap of believing that you can charge for content just because it costs money to produce.

Instead the content must be so compelling that users will pay for it. This requires targeting the right jobs.

Lesson: to be able to charge for content, requires adding a value layer that is unique and compelling, and can be done even if it’s built upon freely available ‘commodity’ items.  Conversely, you cannot charge for content that is free elsewhere.

The article mentions PICA: Perspective, Interpretation, Context and Analysis as various options that can be used to create this value layer.

It’s a worthy and long read.  Most of it can apply to any product or industry, and contains some really good points for understanding where and how to position a product.  The main, and most important point, is to move away from customer segments as the “fundamental unit of analysis” and to look at the jobs people are doing and what their tension points are, ie, I have 10 minutes of time, help me fill it.

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