In a world where many newspapers are struggling to stay afloat under the threat of disruption especially from the digital world, how does one newspaper manage to sell every single copy available by 9:30am and then have copies sold at ridiculously inflated prices online within hours?
How did the newspaper move to a place where the copy for the day became a collector’s item that people were willing to pay more for and it had nothing to do with the news!
Oh and lest we forget, the paper was bought out by people who were not regular customers. Most of those who bought the paper were young people who never buy newspapers.
In fact, one 21-year-old left his home at 5am to buy 146 copies at $1 each which he resold for between $8 and $10. There were even cases of people who sold a copy as high as $100.
Sounds like fiction? Believe it or not, this is exactly what happened to the New York Post on Monday August 13, 2018.
According to a report carried on the New York Times about the dramatic disruption:
“Rush hour commuters were hard-pressed to find a copy of the New York Post near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Times Square on Monday. The Hudson “Booksellers on the ground floor was sold out of the tabloid. So was the basement kiosk. Another around the corner was sold out by 7:15 am. Sheikh Ali, who works at the newsstand on 41st Street, said that one young man had come by at that early hour and picked up all 50 copies he had.”
Types of disruption
On their digital platform the New York Post quoted one of their sellers, one Thomas Prakash, as saying, “I knew they were not the usual customers because they asked for the paper. My usual customers just take it” from the stack before paying for it.
Last week, I talked about different kinds of disruption. We identified product disruption, process disruption and service disruption.
Today we want to identify another key type of disruption and this is disruptive partnerships.
Now what is the secret to this dramatic and sensational performance of the New York Post on August 13, 2018? It was the fact that the newspaper entered into a strategic disruptive partnership with a pop culture clothing line called Supreme.
The paper for that day had in bold on its front and back pages only one thing besides its own name. It had the logo of a clothing brand that describes itself on its own website as the home of New York skating culture.
Supreme started in 1994 having as its core group neighbourhood kids, New York skaters and local artists who became the stores staff, crew and customers.
Supreme grew its brand by perfecting the art of identifying disruptive partnerships.
In the past they have partnered with brands like Fila, Nike, and Levis, and with celebrities most notable of which is a cartoon character called Kermit the Frog!
Anything with the Supreme logo flies off the shelf with loyalists standing in line for hours to get the product be it a brick or even a fire extinguisher.
Now, besides the fact that every single copy was sold out, more value was added to the paper and indeed to the partnership because numerous other papers, tabloids and online platforms had something to say about the collaboration.
Some questions now arise about this disruptive partnership. First is, does the paper have what it takes to build on this relationship that has propelled its brand base to levels not imagined before? What can they do to keep some of these new “catches”? Did they have a post-August 13 plan?
All over the world, media platforms have benefited from events like the World Cup, but then are they able to retain the eyeballs that they gain during the event? Most are not.
The second question is, “Where do brand loyalty and cult like following come from? Is it in quality?” The fact is that only a few companies with a cult like following can tout their quality as the reason.
Last week, when I wrote about the time when Coca-Cola changed its formula, it was after numerous tests that showed that people preferred the taste of Pepsi to that of Coke.
So, based on market research, the coke CEO at the time did the right thing. What they did not foresee was the cult-like following that prompted people to react the way they did rejecting the new formula and asking that the old taste be brought back.
Is there a cult index to measure how fanatic your followers are?
Finally, is there a law that a partnership with a disruptor will automatically lead to bigger disruption?
When Facebook and WhatsApp entered into their relationship, it was celebrated and seen as a disruptive partnership.
When the honeymoon ended and the split happened, a lot of people wondered what went wrong. Is there a science behind the forging of disruptive partnerships? What are the factors that ensure continuity?
Dr Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, Power Talks; [email protected] ; Twitter @waleakinyemi