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Brand and Leverage

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  • 1. Brand and LeverageI thought I would talk this week about making the transition to digital publishing. As usual I firstran a few Google searches to ensure I was up to date with what is going on. Sadly, I wasbombarded with the same rubbish everywhere that was spraying all over the internet a fewyears ago – newspapers and magazine publishing are doomed. Here are some commentsquoted from seemingly literate people with seemingly narrow perspectives on this industry: “Newspapers won’t be successful digitally because they simply don’t think digitally. It’s notthat they don’t want to, it’s a different mindset”;“Newspapers are saddled with the legacy cost (and social tradition/obligation) of having tocover city council, school boards, high school games, etc., then deliver that product to homes insmall towns across America before most people are out of bed”;“The only online news products with a working business model are slicers/dicers/re-packagerslike HuffPo”“…digital ad sales don’t bring in enough money to support a sophisticated news gatheringorganization with any kind of local focus. That doesn’t look like it’s gonna change any timesoon, so let’s give newspapers a break for selling print ads while they still can.”“Beware all this talk of innovation and being aggressive. The climate has changed andnewspapers now live in the desert.”(Thanks to http://newsosaur.blogspot.com/2012/04/four-ways-newspapers-are-failing-at.html)Diddums! What a load of garbage!! I wonder if any of these contributors are seasonedpublishers, or just opinionated bloggers who watch and comment from the side, with wisdomthat knows no bounds or depth.So instead of getting into the details of building a successful digital arm of a print newspaper ormagazine publishing business, I want to instead put this elephant in the room out of its/ourmisery!NEWSPAPER AND MAGAZINE PUBLISHERS ARE THE STAR ATTRACTION OF MODERNMEDIA!Newspaper and magazine publishers have mighty strength of brand, the long-standing historyof credibility, and now the full gamut of output channels to wipe the dance floor. Publish in print,but now also put it out in digital prose, audio grabs/podcasts, video, interactive surveys,comment threads, e-newsletters and more. Someone tell me how this new internet thingy hasbeen bad for publishers. What am I missing?Oh, print. Circulations are down, so let’s pack up and go home. Forget brand, there are all 1/4
  • 2. these new start-ups (‘upstarts’!) with funky Web2.0 logos that have beaten experiencedpublishers at the starting gates and new media belongs to them. Hey, they might not have thefoggiest about actually running a publishing business, loyalty or branding, but they look greatand seem simple.Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrkkkkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!! Brakes on. Guess what – a lot of this nonsense is pedalledonline by modern publicists whose job it is to promote these funky new media guerrillas, or bytired media execs that have neither the energy nor inclination to step into new media, opting tocomfort themselves with self-pity reflection on an industry that was.Let’s just backup a little here. Keeping it simple:Brand + Leverage = Successful BusinessIf you have or can build a good brand, and you have or can build the resources andopportunities to leverage that brand, your business will very likely succeed. Brand is what youare selling, leverage is how you’re selling it. Not much value owning an iconic brand thatinvokes zero business – even religions enable donations. Conversely, no point building a greatsales team and generating 1000’s of leads if your product is invisible or worse still, stinks.Brand + Leverage…Brand – So what are our long-standing arch-rivals up to? Those grotty little TV and Radio salesreps forever hitting up our advertisers for our dollars…Wishing you owned a TV or Radio stationand not your local newspaper?When did you last visit a TV channel website to find out about a local event or news story?Heck, we don’t visit TV websites outside of hunting down an actual TV show… and even thenit’s the TV show we Google, not necessarily even knowing what station it was on. And radiostations? Hmmm… maybe for competition details or a schedule, but that’s about it. Nup, nobrand angels blowing the bugles there with this new era of internet media.Hang on… isn’t the internet the biggest thing in media now? Isn’t internet the greatestinformation sharing tool, the strongest ‘media’ on the planet now? Yep, and newspaper andmagazine publishers are better positioned than ANY OTHER traditional media to exploit thisnew world.With the stage set and gun fired on this race a few years ago now, why are newspaper andmagazine publishers still struggling to get off the starting blocks? I suggest two reasons alone.But first, lets look at the inherent strength of the magazine and newspaper brand.It’s what you do! – bogged down by commitments to reporting on council meetings and localsports events is often tarried as the ball and chain around the newspaper publisher’s neck…“But that’s precisely the value that local newspapers bring to the table. National andinternational news can always be delivered as curated aggregation; the local journalists are the 2/4
  • 3. only ones who can supply valued local content. Local newspapers have everything they need tobe successful–if they learn to think like digital startups. They face tremendous inertia, but it’smental inertia; they are like passengers on a sinking ship, too fearful of letting go of the handrailto get into the loud, scary speedboat that’s come to rescue them.” RichJulius, http://imediarevenue.com/News - news consumption is peaking, having a ball at the new media party! So available in somany ways day or night, up to the minute, nay second from your back pocket. News is theheartbeat of the newspaper industry, print but one of its outfits. So tick that box – yes, peopleare interested in news more than ever before.Engagement - Most importantly, the magazine and newspaper publisher can be so much to somany different audiences, IN A 2-WAY STREET. The ability to deliver content across so manyplatforms is beautiful, the ability to recover and engage content from their audience isspectacular! Radio talk-back and Letters-to-the-Editor have always been popular, and nowpublishers can offer their readers participation in real-time commentary feeds, submit articles,pictures, videos from mobile phones and more.Feedback – publishers can monitor how successful they are engaging their audience betterthan their poor old colleagues at the radio or TV stations. Freely available website analyticstools tell publishers not only how many people visited, but what they looked at, how long theylooked, where they came from and where they went next. Try getting that information from a TVor radio audience!Leverage – so with all this goodwill toward ye faithful community newspaper or local magazineand so much technology at hand, leverage is a no-brainer! If you are only selling ads, you’releaving a lot of money on the table. If you’re only in print, you’re leaving a lot of audiencesurfing the net in the dark for your stories. If you haven’t considered tablets, that kid whodelivered your newspapers ten years ago will be your boss next year.You’ve got brand, you’ve got technology – who could ask for anything more!? You should bebundling everything you can throw at an advertiser into compelling offers that lock them in longterm and lock out your competitors. Rework that sales kit to sell bundles that include an onlinebusiness directory listing, an event listing, a 350 word online article about the business, amini-website, a full-blown business website, a brand makeover for their business with collateralspruce up, a listing in your shopping directory.So what’s the roadblock? I think newspaper and magazine publishers have been too long lostin print deadlines. They see anything even slightly offline to this cycle as intrusive, disruptiveand a damn nuisance. The consequence is, like every elephant in the room, the pressure to dosomething about it becomes greater and greater, until it is one big toothache requiring somestaff terminations and ‘expert’ consultants to make everything better.Perhaps if newspapers could just experiment a little. No big show-stoppers or great leaps for 3/4
  • 4. mankind, just add a business directory to your website, start upselling advertisers to websites and collateral, charge a dollar for event listings… no biggies and no need for protracted training courses that teach you in the end that digital is growing. The beauty of digital is that it is far cheaper to experiment there than ever it was in print! And if something does not succeed, tweak it, add more to the mix. Chat with other publishers who are 12-months into the learning curve. If newspaper and magazine publishers can stay away from the doomsayers and spend 30mins one day simply sketching out a trial and error plan for little things they can implement with the team over the next 12-months, they will very likely start to feel like the stars they are. The world is watching the newspaper, watching the magazine. It is time to shine, not kotow. And next time you hear or read someone saying that ‘newspaper and magazines are dead’, ask them what they know about brand and leverage… brand and leverage. 4/4Powered by TCPDF (www.tcpdf.org)

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