How to get consumers to eat the fresh content they crave

June 27, 2016

healthy-chartA few years ago, Consumer Reports released some truly gobsmacking findings from a survey[1] on Americans’ perception of their personal diets: In a country where three out of every four adults are overweight[2] and nearly half are classified as “obese” or “extremely obese,” a whopping 90% of respondents to the survey nonetheless characterized their own diets as healthy.

The disconnect in the 2011 diet survey came to mind with the more recent release of the 2016 Digital News Report[3] by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Just as Americans may not be eating as many vegetables as they like to think they are, the Reuters report suggested a similar delta between the news providers that respondents said they trust and turn to and the ones that are actually experiencing growth.

Hot brands such as Vice, Buzzfeed, Popsugar and Huffington Post may be the darlings of the media commentariat, but consumers still place enormous value in more established publishers. “Second-wave digital-born brands like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post are growing in reach in many countries around the world,” the authors write. “But when asked about their MAIN news source, respondents everywhere were much more likely to turn to a brand with a track record for serious news.”online-brands

So why is it that the content providers more associated with quality in the minds of consumers are the ones struggling the most? Part of it could be that readers are simply fooling themselves; that while they claim to crave the roughage of original reportage and incisive analysis, what they truly fancy is the empty calories of a clever listicle or the sugar high of a puppy video.

But what if something else is going on too? What if it was also about—at least in part—the way original content is typically packaged & sold?

The way people eat is, again, a useful analogy for the way they consume content. Until fairly recently, if you wanted to eat a healthy dinner, you had to, say, turn lots of these: shutterstock_224846260…into this:
Or this guy: shutterstock_154424327…into this:shutterstock_163436081
Not only was it time consuming, it was frequently wasteful, since veggies don’t always come in the right size to feed your family and your skill set may not include efficiently filleting a salmon.
But the last year or so has seen explosive growth in the “dinner-in-a-box” category, where companies like Plated, Blue Apron, HelloFresh and Marley Spoon deliver chopped, cleaned & ready to cook ingredients precisely premeasured to match the number of units in your nuclear family. Market research firm Packaged Facts did a survey in April 2016 in which 16 percent of 2,028 participants reported using some form of meal kit services "on a regular basis." And meal kits startups earned a record high of $445M in funding in 2015 across 29 deals, up more than 3x in funding terms from $137M across 14 deals in 2014. These startups are riding a wave of busy consumers who want to eat better—homemade, not processed meals made with fresh, and in many cases, locally-sourced ingredients.

The Reuters survey on what consumers consider their “main” news sources suggests that a similar appetite exists for fresh, high-quality information. But, from the consumer’s point of view, they want the opportunity to sample from the menu before they buy. Not to worry, they realize that these samples of high quality content come at a cost and like the “dinner-in-a-box” concept they will trade with their time (ad-viewing) or pay for an article.

The promising news for publishers is that they can optimize their revenue models by providing a flexible platform for consuming premium content with ad views or à la carte purchase. The net benefit for publishers is they can now feed subscription models while consumer trial is being subsidized through alternative monetization solutions.

A recent round of User testing makes us confident the model is on the right track.

The research[6] demonstrates consumers believe in a value exchange:value-exchange

Moreover, we found that a demand gauge coupled with a dynamically changing price boosted trust in the value of content even further.chart2

So what we know is:
1) Consumers say they prefer established, quality news sources, but empirical usage data shows they may not be getting their full daily allowance.
2) In the exploding meal kit category, quality ingredients are prepared and measured for convenience to the consumer, who is willing to pay more for ease of access to quality food. Similarly, qbeats software provides quality content from respected publishers to the consumer in an easy, hassle free way.
3) Our data shows that consumers respond positively and are willing to pay for quality content when we make it easy for them to access.
Like green leafy veggies, you know quality journalism is good for you and good for the planet. We think we’ve found a way to make it more accessible—and more palatable—for everyone.

Anna Rodriguez
Co-Founder and CEO
June 29, 2016

[1] Houston Chronicle

[2] NIH

[3] 2016 Digital News Report

[4] Packaged Facts, April 28 2016

[5] CB Insights , June 4 2016

[6] qbeats User Study, June 2016