Article by Maria Fonseca and Paula Newton
One sector that has undergone tremendous change over the past couple of decades is the traditional publishing industry. It has been argued by some that publishing is dead. This has been evidenced with layoffs at newspapers and some content only being available online rather than via traditional means. Greg Satell (2014) of Digital Tonto disagrees with the concept that publishing is dead. Rather, Satell argues that these days there are even more publishing opportunities than ever before. It just takes people to spot the opportunities and find ways to take advantage of these. As Satell puts it:
“It took Luce [of TIME magazine] decades to build his empire, but Bleacher Report and Huffington Post took just a few short years to create hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The crucial question though is that if it has never been so easy for all of us to publish, how can one attract readers willing to buy and read what you publish, if everyone is publishing ? A whole set of new skills is necessary, from SEO, to social media presence and the need to know your customers. In one word, the publishing sector needs to innovate and to take the digital world into consideration.
The Past Publishing Model
In Satell´s opinon, the publishing business model of the past was based on a trade-off between the press and the TV. He argues that the stronger the TV advertising market is, the weaker the press market will be and vice versa. However, he explains that digital technology transformed the situation. It is opined by Satell that at the outset the internet only really affected newspaper publishing and not magazines, because at that time the internet was only really used for direct response marketing. However, the influx of tablets has led to magazine display advertising also being attacked. Profits are lessening in this industry now.
Satell argues that there is a culture problem in publishing that executives seem unwilling to change from. That is, when they started their careers they focused on selling ad pages and pushing high rates. This has all changed, and executives need to learn to accept it.
One of the problems with publishing is the lack of adaptation to a world where advertising teams and journalists need to communicate with one another. In the past this was considered unacceptable and was not done to keep a hold of integrity. Satell argues that this was not a good model anyway and even less so now that the digital environment is taking hold. He states that especially now people have to collaborate to innovate. Clearly, as he puts it, that is going to be hard to do if people work in different functions can’t or won’t talk with one another.
Evidencing the failure to adapt, Satell points out that magazine publishers earn fewer than 3% of their revenues from digital means. In a digital world, this seems foolish. Publishers of magazines and newspapers are continuing to survive and grow but only very slowly.
What Can Be Done
For publishing to be able to grow more effectively in a digital world it is necessary to innovate and adopt new models.The social business model for example, offers interesting ideas to the publishing sector, due to its use of social media platforms. On the other hand, and according to Satell´s opinion, there is a need to “tear down the Chinese walls”. By this he refers to the failure of advertising and journalistic staff to communicate with one another to be able to innovate. Three tips on how to innovate are the following:
1. Online video – One possibility is to use online video. As Satell argues, online video is a rising star and has been growing very rapidly. However, as Satell points out, very few publishers are actually making the most of this particular opportunity.How to innovate in the publishing sector Intelligenthq
2. Looking for gaps in the market and transforming these into opportunities – Another possibility according to Satell is focusing on brands that are cheaper to launch on the internet than in print. Satell suggests that businesses should look at content they already have and see ways to compete. For example, he points out that newspapers have book reviews, restaurant and movie reviews. However, no newspaper is working to compete with Goodreads, IMDb or TripAdvisor. This is a failure to see an opportunity with existing assets and to innovate appropriately. Leveraging spin-out brands could mean big business for traditional publishers and a way into the digital world, but few if any are doing this. Repacking existing content as e-books is suggested as yet another opportunity – for example, vacation guides, or guides to pregnancy.
3. Being prepared for a new type of customer – There is a tremendous shift in the behaviors and habits of people that will ultimately affect the publishing sector. Millenials and Generation Z are becoming a large part of the population. Both generations grew up with technology and in an online environment shaped by social media channels. Publishing businesses should look carefully at these segments of customers, their needs, preferences and behaviors. Both generations will definitely shape the sector in coming years.
Ultimately, as Satell explains there is a need to create a business model innovation process in such organisations so that innovation can occur. Some the ideas provided above are just based on a short brainstorm, and many more could be achieved adapted to the type of business.
Maria Fonseca is the Editor and Infographic Artist for IntelligentHQ. She is also a thought leader writing about social innovation, sharing economy, social business, and the commons. Aside her work for IntelligentHQ, Maria Fonseca is a visual artist and filmmaker that has exhibited widely in international events such as Manifesta 5, Sao Paulo Biennial, Photo Espana, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Joshibi University and many others. She concluded her PhD on essayistic filmmaking , taken at University of Westminster in London and is preparing her post doc that will explore the links between creativity and the sharing economy.