The present and future of post production business and technology

Publishers Need Popcorn, Not Paywalls.

Publishers Need Popcorn, Not Paywalls

Until I read this article I had no idea that popcorn was so important to the cinema business. According to the article I had no idea that popcorn – along with improved movie technology and enhanced movie-going experience (air conditioning) – helped save the motion picture exhibition business.

Think of cinema, the great survivor of 20th century media. What did cinema owners do when the US economy tanked in the 1920s and 30s? As well as innovating the product (introducing sound, then colour), the packaging (offering double bills), and the user experience (introducing air-conditioning), they also found a new revenue stream that ultimately saved their business — popcorn.

We think of the movies as a content-based business but cinemas then as now make their profit from popcorn (which has an operating margin in excess of 90%). It also drives additional revenue streams by making you thirsty. And somehow it’s become an integral part of the content experience. What 21st century media businesses must do now, as they rebuild themselves, is find their popcorn.

The author wonders that, instead of erecting the paywalls around newspaper content online (which are proving spectacularly unsuccessful):

We may speculate as to whether 2%, or 5%, or 10% of Times readers will pay for the paper’s content online in the face of competition from free rivals. We will have to see. But we have plenty of evidence that consumers do spend money online on products and services. Indeed, online news fans are even more likely than the average online user to buy books, tickets, travel, or clothing online. The key is not to monetize the content but to monetize the audience.