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Can News and Information Be Appealing as Virtual Goods? (By Adam Hanft)

March 12th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The Game Developers Conference was held this week in San Francisco.   On the surface, you wouldn’t think that this convocation would be an event of great interest to those working on, and thinking about, the future of media. 

 But when you consider it more deeply, the “God of War III” and “Street Fighter IV” are actually quite relevant to many of the issues that newspapers and magazine face. Because they’ve been successful at turning free into paid in a category where small packages of content are delivered to users as a form of distraction, entertainment and sociability.
 
Casual games are booming; it’s a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to grow by 100 percent ever year.   What are consumers paying for?   Since the games are free, they’re ponying up for virtual goods that enable a user to move up faster or explore new areas.  
 
It’s really important to note that casual games have a particular appeal to women – and particularly, older women. Hint hint: this a demographic that consumes a lot of news and information, too.
 
Casual games function as tiny distractions, as a kind of video snacking, as stress-reducers, as pure entertainment and escapism. And importantly, because they live inside social networks, they are a hybrid of gaming and connecting.
 
Can the success of game snacking be translated into news snacking? Can the media package its content in a way that connects with the expectations and behaviors of the casual game consumer? Should the news media be partnering with the game developers at the conference?
 
It would be a real breakthrough if news snacking was able to ignite social networks for sharing and virality -- in the way casual game have -- and by doing so extend the reach and appeal of newspapers and magazines.
 
John Pleasants, the CEO of Playdom, a leading casual game company, said in an interview that 90 percent of his revenue comes from the sale of virtual goods, versus just 10 percent from advertising.
 
Can news and information content be made as appealing and emotionally rewarding as virtual goods? What do you think?
 
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One Response to “Can News and Information Be Appealing as Virtual Goods? (By Adam Hanft)”

  1. Guest says:

    Create small video ads! Have them be silent unless the user wants to hear them, but they can be videos of news broadcasts being reported live or started some time ago. Social network users may find it interesting to have an app that opens a notification to inform them of the news.

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