How “Premium” is McKinsey?

by Jay Deragon on 01/30/2009

mckinseywayI receive The McKinsey Quarterly which has some great management articles relevant for today’s times.  Recently they have been covering “social media” and their articles have been very good.  However, I received today’s articles from McKinsey and noticed a promotions for their “premium service” which looked like this:

Become a Premium Member Today

With a Premium Membership in The McKinsey Quarterly, you’ll have exclusive access to business strategies from McKinsey & Company and perspectives from top thinkers and executives.

Upgrade to Premium Membership and receive:

  • Unlimited online access to Premium content and Web exclusives
  • A subscription to the collector’s edition print journal
  • The complete Quarterly archives online
  • Downloadable PDFs of all articles

Upgrade now for only $150 annually (with significant savings on the two- and three-year terms).

After reading this I thought “Would I spend $150 a year for McKinsey’s premium offering?”.  My immediate answer was no and here is why.

  1. While McKinsey is a very smart consulting firm they do not own all the “smart content” on the web
  2. There are numerous Universities offering “free papers” from Professors researching relevant topics that McKinsey writes about.
  3. Most, if not all the candidiates that work for McKinsey came out of the classrooms from Professors writing for free.
  4. Most people learn more from their host of “favored contacts” who are on the fringes of the web and their content is very valuable and free
  5. I am certainly not the smartest guy in the world but I do study my subject matter and offer my own “thoughts” on my blog for free
  6. The social web is based on a “freemium model” that accelerates knowledge exchanges through conversational content and mass distribution.
  7. Traditional media in the form of magazines, newspapers and television are learning a hard lesson about “free”content.
  8. I am connected to tens of thousands of individuals with diverse backgrounds about anything and everything.
  9. If I need to know anything about something finding a qualified “expert” from my network is a “click of the mouse“.
  10. Besides that I can also ask a question on Twitter and get an immediate response.

Those are the primary reasons I saw no need to spend $150 on a McKinsey Premium offering.

Thinking through this made me wonder what the “consulting industry” will look like is a few short years.  Virtual technology lets us reach millions of people and within that crowd there are experts willing to share and advise without a retainer.  Now don’t get me wrong, a long term consulting engagement will still be a fairly sound model but the delivery mechanism of the service and the transfer of the knowledge will most likely change significantly as will the price points.

Imagine a time that any department manager or employee will have access to a “virtual expert” network of qualified people.  These virtual resources can analyze, guide and education people to solve their own problems or find products and services that enhances their primary offerings and collectively exceed the end buyers expectations at lower cost.  After all, isn’t that the mission of every business?

Just maybe McKinsey should consider creating “McKinsey Virtual” and develop a network for all businesses to access expert resources at incremental cost.  It would expand their market and deliver services beyond current and future customer expectations.

Just maybe the McKinsey Way will be forced to change to survive. Certainly they are smart enough to know that a promotion for a $150 premium publication service isn’t the smart or social thing to do. Then again common sense doesn’t always equate to being smart.

What say you?


Jeff Pundyk February 2, 2009 at 2:57 pm

One more link to throw into the mix… video of Hal Varian, google chief economist. see the section on “free goods and value” (yes, on The McKinsey Quarterly.)

(full article here:


Jay Deragon February 2, 2009 at 11:10 am

Suggest you read the following to stir this conversation further

Does Free Build Relations?
How Fast Can You Get To Free?
How Does “Free” Impact Your Business?

Jeff Pundyk February 2, 2009 at 11:02 am

btw, you might find this article by Chris Anderson in the WSJ relevant to this discussion:

(as an aside, I’ll note that The McKinsey Quarterly’s free offering is truly free, i.e., no advertising.)



Dan February 1, 2009 at 2:00 am

There is some consistency with the emerging thesis of advertising in the age of social media. McKinsey is aware that advertising is a two way street – not the one way radio/TV/newsprint model. For this they ought to be applauded.

The next step, perhaps where they may not have yet discovered – or at least conceived a business model for – is the empowerment of the community in which they seek to sell those services. That, I believe is where Jay is going with his position piece.

The next step is empowerment. McKinsey needs to organize people, give them a recipe for success and help them forward. If they can bring social media down to the ground, they will be on the forefront of their industry. “To teach is to learn” – that’s where the data is.

McKinsey Quarterly January 30, 2009 at 4:20 pm

@prblogs @richcard We’ve responded to @JDeragon’s post earlier today

Jeff Pundyk January 30, 2009 at 5:08 pm


Thanks for your kind words regarding the quality of articles from The McKinsey Quarterly, and for your thoughtful post on Premium Membership. As publisher of the Quarterly, I’d like to share with you some of our thinking about this issue. While I don’t agree with all of the points you make in your post, I do agree with the general thesis, particularly as it pertains to publishing (as opposed to the consulting model). It is our intention for the Quarterly to act as a vehicle that puts McKinsey thinking squarely in the public debate on the key business issues of our time. To do this, we absolutely agree that our content needs to be accessible through many channels, including the open Web, established platforms like Facebook, RSS, Twitter and widgets, and good, old-fashioned print. Our publishing model, which is continually evolving, is to try to find a balance between the content that we make freely available (through free registration on our site, as well as through other methods of syndication) and the content that we do keep Premium. The Premium content is largely there as an online companion to our print publication, which has a very different cost structure from our digital products. (In fact, one of the biggest selling points to the Premium services is the print subscription that comes bundled with the Premium online access.) We are constantly examining how much of our content to keep freely accessible — over the years, the balance has shifted significantly. We certainly recognize the trade-off that comes with retaining Premium Membership, and agree that there are myriad excellent resources on the Web. Our Premium offering represents one part of our distribution strategy; our “freemium” content represents another. And, just like you, as we continue to experiment with the emerging social media platforms, we will continue to rethink our model.

Jeff Pundyk
The McKinsey Quarterly

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