Follow the Money in Old and New Media Publishing

January 29, 2015

You know the adage, that if you want to know one’s motivations or interests, you should follow the money. The thought is as true when you’re discussing politics or business as it is in media, and it’s definitely true in publishing. If you want to know how a publishing company is organizing its values and efforts, or to know which department is rising above and which is lagging behind, follow the money.
By following the money, you can pick out the publishers who are still treating their business the old media way: they are the ones who divvy up the marketing and production spend according to product performance. They’re the same publishers with a team for print circulation, a separate team for digital, one worried about “the brand,” and one in the back scrambling for likes, views and shares.
receiptsWith the old media way, the team with the most subscribers – or downloads – is the winner, and it becomes easy to believe that particular offering is more valuable than the others. This leaves each team competing for the most attention to prove print, digital, app, or social is the best platform for the publisher to focus on.
In today’s multiplatform world, however, that kind of thinking is not only outmoded, it’s dangerous. Keeping departments in silos – including circulation, sales, and marketing – leads to contention and refusal to share what could be game-changing strategies. Publishers need a unified team with a shared goal of meeting the new challenges of a rapidly changing audience. To do this, old media publishers need to think about things a little differently.
First, think of your brand’s purpose. Is it to get as many copies of your magazine into your readers’ hands as possible? Most likely the only ones to worry about that are your circulation teams. Your brand’s purpose, rather, might be to deliver the best information on a particular topic. It might be to connect people under a common banner. It might be to raise interest in a cause. Whatever the original purpose of the brand – not just the magazine product – embrace that and preach it to your entire staff.
Immediately after establishing your brand purpose, start unifying your teams under clearly defined objectives in achieving your brand purpose. At this level, you’re still thinking of the benefit of the whole company, rather than a tactical approach. Think of how you will prove your brand is achieving its purpose. Maybe that does look like more likes and followers this year than ever before. Maybe that is more article shares. If that’s true, then you can start thinking through the tactics of how to present the content so you achieve results.
Be ready to experiment! Publishers the world over are seeing the results of being willing to play with multiple digital offerings, including long-form blog articles packaged into newsletters, photo essays presented on a microsite, YouTube campaigns that are more about the brand’s purpose than the brand, apps that provide the audience way more than a repetition of the print magazine content. If you’re short on ideas, look around at what other publishers are doing, or try contacting a third party, such as a digital vendor, to see where they can fill in the gaps.
Remember, new media is about collaboration across teams and across platforms. Keep your brand purpose in sight, and keep your target audience top of mind. As you unify your teams under the common goal, keep testing what is working with your audience and what is missing the mark. The power of digital platforms is their ability to track audience behavior, and the metrics they provide give valuable insights for every department. Whether that’s showing which types of content are preferred, what time is the best to post on a particular platform, or which content format promotes further reading, publishers who give their people these insights gives each team a valuable edge.
So where does the money go in this new media way of thinking? It goes to achieving the brand purpose objective. It doesn’t divide departments into product teams (apps, print, digital, social) or even into groups of people with the same job function (circulation, revenue, design). It goes to whichever campaign is the next to promote the brand purpose, and keeps the competition where it belongs, focused outward, not inward.


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