The New York Times recently debuted its re-launched weekly magazine with the February 22 edition of the paper. Besides the usual self-aggrandizing about the new typefaces, columns, departments, and paper stock, the publication presented a compelling statement about its multichannel strategy on page 44 titled, “Beyond the Page.”
If the title sounds like a Harvard Business Review whitepaper, it’s a vision statement that all publishers aspire to — and which is easier said than done. The perfect recipe is content distribution through print, website, daily emails to mobile, podcasts, events — a 360 degree universe of readily available, current information services. Doing it all well and managing costs is an enviable dream for any organization charged with keeping the paying customer — its readers and sponsors — satisfied.
Even as the universe of ad dollars is being stretched across a burgeoning community of niche media properties, publishers like The Times have also had to contend with increased costs to populate content in multiple forms. As the saying goes, best practices means “giving the reader what they want, when they want, however and wherever they want it.” The old joke about putting the genie back into the bottle rings true. In 2015, the challenge is evident: The genie ain’t going back in, so we might as well enjoy the dance. Editors are charged with delivering well-researched, well-written, specific information for what amounts to an audience-of-one, catering to all levels of knowledge and specialization, meeting all reader expectations across many channels — and they need to do this on a publishing cycle that is as close to 24/7 as possible.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, publishers have the age-old challenge of trying to attract new readers to the pipeline, infusing the existing audience with younger members and ensuring that the development path is replenished and healthy for the future.
The Times announced another round of staff layoffs, letting go of about 110 newsroom jobs and closing its popular “Home” section this week. According to Keith Kelly and The New York Post, The Times print ad revenue fell 4.7 percent last year as readers continued to migrate to other digital venues. Sports Illustrated, an industry icon for its prose and breathtaking action photography, recently announced that it was letting go of the six remaining staff photographers, along with another round of cuts to the editorial staff.
Associations, as non-traditional publishers, are in a similar position. With an easy twitch of their Google-bound finger, members now have access to thousands of sources of news, analysis, data, shared insights and networking that professional memberships once exclusively offered. Reeling from the changes caused by technological advances and ubiquitous communication, executive management teams at these professional organizations are looking beyond traditional sponsors and turning to something called “non-dues revenue,” or ancillary revenue streams.
It’s all a necessary adaptation. Revenues will need to fragment into smaller pools just as the reader communities have fractured into their own niches. While events continue to produce successful sales results for associations and other publishers, these companies will need to establish and grow alternative ways to monetize their content. Ad agencies have done the same thing. If there was once a handful of revenue sources, many more streams were cultivated over the last twenty years and today, it’s not uncommon to see a plethora of offerings like research, data and analytics, mobile services, SEO, social, tie-in’s and cross-promotional deals, product placement, event marketing, and more — each profit line being mostly smaller in value for the agency.
One would think that conference and event strategies might be more prominent for associations, since in-person, face-to-face interaction is not the one thing that the Internet can’t offer.
In our office, we get a lot of queries from associations asking for our recommendations or best practices in multichannel publishing. Catering to their customers hasn’t been an easy task. Microsites and magazines are constantly being created to serve smaller, targeted segments of their universe of readers. Perhaps chasing their members’ ability to access niche content in the field of interest, publishers have continued to launch and sustain specialized technical and trade media properties. In this way, professional publishing has followed the path of its consumer counterparts. (Fishing magazine becomes Saltwater Fishing magazine, which becomes Eastern Saltwater Fishing, which becomes Florida Saltwater Sports Fishing, and on and on.)
Association managers need to know that they are in good company. Virtually every content-based organization is learning to manage new, real-time publishing cycles and multichannel strategies. It may not be a pretty dance, but there is abundant opportunity.
If you would like a consultative meeting to review your publishing and content strategy, please contact our office to set up a time to speak.
Tags: 360 degree, association media and publishing, association publishing, content marketing, content strategy, continuous cycle publishing, integrated media, multichannel marketing, professional communities, reader experience, real time publishing
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