Cris Beswick is among the UK’s foremost innovation specialists, and one of the pioneers behind an exciting plan to change how digital media is consumed.
That vision is The Future Shapers, a roadmap to bringing quality content and thought leadership pieces directly to readers through a ‘pay-as-you-read’ model closer in style to Netflix than the more traditional methods of paying for this content, such as intrusive adverts or hefty annual subscription fees.
In an exclusive interview with Customer Experience Magazine, Cris – the author of The Road to Innovation – discusses how the plan has the potential to return value ‘back to knowledge’, and how you can get in on the ground floor to help make it happen…
Hello Cris, tell us how the idea for The Future Shapers came about
Well, I’ve written for various publications over the last 10 years, such as magazines and newspapers, and of course for online platforms also.
In the innovation space, myself and TFS co-founders felt there was still room for another platform, one that’s online, to try and do something a little bit different.
The idea was to try and focus on quality actionable content for readers.
When it comes to what’s already available, I was frustrated by things such as monetising through intrusive adverts that diminish or dilute the fact that a site should be about thought leadership and great content. As a result of feeling this way, a friend said to me to put my money where my mouth is, and so The Future Shapers was born.
We have been live for 18 months now, with the mantra of returning value back to knowledge, for the reader and the thought leaders (the contributors).
Tell us how this plan can become a viable business model for the likes of online journalism
The innovation space is an interesting one. There are a lot of genuine experts, and the innovation space is dominating a lot of conversations – such as when asking how do businesses innovate etc. The need for innovation is right at the top of the strategic agenda for a great many people.
Our intended readers are typically senior leaders, change makers, HR directors, heads of innovation and the like. We know they are struggling to find great content around the challenges they all face when it comes to innovating.
The Future Shapers’ core aim is to ultimately become the go-to place for these people, and many others. You might say ‘we are struggling with understanding how we build an innovation strategy’, so the answer would be to go to TFS and find the content around that strategy.
Also, doing this will pinpoint thought leaders who are contributing the most when it comes to content on strategy, so there’s a secondary potential for our contributors to be directly engaged by those clients.
The original business model was: how do we monetise access to that content without going down the advertising route and filling sites with banners, or asking for annual subscriptions?
How do we value the people who provide the content that people desire? There simply aren’t many sites in the innovation space that genuinely compensate the providers of the content for what they create, yet these same sites often make significant revenue because people visit to read that very same content.
We asked: how do we provide access to this content in a way in which people pay for what they consume, rather than through costly overall subscription methods? The flip side of that question is: how do we do this and compensate the contributors, not by paying them, for example, £200 for an article, but paying them every time the article is read? This way they get the lion’s share when it comes to revenue made through their expertise.
The Future Shapers has been compared to Netflix in terms of its business model. Could this venture be as successful as that?
The comparison is there because of the interface: a pay-as-you-view service. All you will need is an account and payment mechanism. You consume as much or as little as you want, so the ‘written content version of Netflix’ is a fair analogy.
What can people do to get involved with The Future Shapers?
The beauty of what we’re doing is that we decided not to go down the route of having a big institutional investor. We had the opportunity to be backed by a few significant investors, and we could already be up and running now in terms of having the funds to build the technology that’s going to sit behind the platform and do all of the things we talked about.
However, when it comes to the people we are building the platform for, we thought: wouldn’t it be better if they owned some of the platform as well? That is what prompted us to go down the crowdfunding route.
Several of the current investors are also contributors. They recognise that when the tech is built it will power their ability to monetise their articles and thought pieces into content that drives a revenue back to them every time someone reads what they have written.
We kept the investing private for around four weeks, to give our community a chance to invest, but now we’re public. We want the public, as investors, to help us push on to the final goal.
We are between 20 and 25 percent funded, and over the next few weeks we want to get the other 75 percent and get us past the £200,000 mark. That will then be enough for us to build the technology we need.
People can have a look at what we’re building; we would suggest they do some research on the online media industry at the moment – how its being disrupted and how its on the verge of even greater disruption.
I’m not saying we are going to disrupt the entire industry alone, but we plan to play a part in shifting from that traditional annual subscription model into the consumption model I outlined.
I would ask your readers to feel free to log onto Crowdcube, see more of what we are about, and make an investment.
We are building the tech to power TFS, but the savvy investor will see, when they read the documents, that what we are building will be significant, and that technology is where the real disruption is. That tech will be applicable to other sectors where they require a managed, protected way to push content to consumers, so the licensing of that IP will be incredibly significant in terms of how big our revenues can be.