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Dancing With the Genie (or The Ongoing Plight of the Omnipresent Media Brand)

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

DVI0775032The 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.

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For the Right Audience, a Print Redux

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Evercore_IT_Winter2015_low_7We like to say that we’re “media-agnostic,” meaning that we are open to whatever strategy and channel works most effectively. Depending on the audience needs, printed thought leadership may be an important component of a larger, 360-degree, integrated content marketing program. Such is the case with Evercore Wealth Management, which publishes Independent Thinking four times annually.

Our team redesigned the publication in 2014 and through a partnership with the client organization, continues to design and produce each edition. The publication is but one part of a system of content being published by Evercore Wealth Management, with each of the main articles coordinated to appear on the rotating carousel of the firm’s website. The winter edition, featured here, shares insights on Tax-Efficient Wealth Planning, the Investing Outlook for 2015, and Planning to Achieve “The Number” — that milestone which leaves us financially independent.

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Elegance With Entry Points: A sophisticated composition can also include a “tiered reader experience,” offering the reader twenty, ten, and one minute engagements

Working with the client team, we’ve collaborated to package a best-practice corporate journal — elegant design fitting for the audience, with a compelling composition of industry insights, thought leadership, arresting photographs, and current data shown as easy, clear information graphics.

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For more information, visit www.evercorewealthmanagement.com. If you have an interest in improving the quality of your content marketing or corporate communications, please visit www.iridiumgroup.com.

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Case Study: Burford Capital

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

burfordcapital_2In 2014, our group led a strategic redesign of the flagship website for Burford Capital, a legal financing firm that helps clients with business risk solutions and funding for corporate litigation. The site was just recently launched, reflecting a culmination of many months of work in research, planning, design, and development by IridiumGroup and the client team.
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A phase of stakeholder interviews shared insights into the company’s strategic goals, audiences, communications and channels, brand image, competitive set, and content needs of the site.

A proposed navigation, site structure, and wireframes were developed to meet the usability needs of several key audiences on both the legal and the corporate, client side. Burford Capital’s marketing leaders directed the content and navigation. It was important to deliver the proper messaging and desired user experience to all audiences, whether the purpose was to explain litigation funding, convey its business value, report progress to investors, share whitepapers, or to provide a deeper tier of reading and related links.
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The discovery that was done with Burford’s executive management team provided critical insights that guided and informed the design. Burford Capital works predominantly in academic, intellectual property and provide a full suite of solutions, but in some ways is also an investment institution. Early in the process, it was clear that the design should be typographical, or word- and content-driven, with a focus on delivering information in a clear, simple, easily accessible manner.

Also, we wanted to provide a visual expression and platform that would appeal to corporate attorneys, CFO’s, in-house counsel and corporate risk professionals. Our team worked to deliver an approachable, engaging, and inviting experience — but also, one with a quiet, restrained, and elegant presentation of data points and information. It was our goal to project a brand image of global thought-leadership in the emerging world of litigation finance and legal risk solutions. For more information, visit: http://www.burfordcapital.com/

 

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What’s So Social About Social Media?

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Columbus, Ohio – February 1995. Another consultant and I were touring the offices of the now defunct CompuServe, an early forerunner of AOL and other online communities. As we sat in cubicles and peered over the shoulders of staff giving us demos of the online capabilities, someone observed that members could spend their whole lives online — to which an astute editor retorted, “or their non-lives.”

There’s a great Op-Ed in The Times today titled, “Love People, Not Pleasure.”

Arthur C. Brooks writes, “Today, each of us can build a personal little fan base, thanks to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like. We can broadcast the details of our lives to friends and strangers in an astonishingly efficient way. That’s good for staying in touch with friends, but it also puts a minor form of fame-seeking within each person’s reach. And several studies show that it can make us unhappy.”

“It makes sense. What do you post to Facebook? Pictures of yourself yelling at your kids, or having a hard time at work? No, you post smiling photos of a hiking trip with friends. You build a fake life — or at least an incomplete one — and share it. Furthermore, you consume almost exclusively the fake lives of your social media “friends.” Unless you are extraordinarily self-aware, how could it not make you feel worse to spend part of your time pretending to be happier than you are, and the other part of your time seeing how much happier others seem to be than you?”

Love People, Not Pleasure

The article is an adept and compelling view of the current world we live in, one which is rife with images of luxury and success, all broadcast and transmitted over a million channels of marketing. From aspirations of fame (reality television) to social media (Facebook), to the pursuit of money or any other dalliances that we can all be prone to chase, Brooks shares a complete and well-reasoned argument for a more spiritual life.

In his words, “It is the worldly snake oil peddled by the culture makers from Hollywood to Madison Avenue. But you know in your heart that it is morally disordered and a likely road to misery.”

Thankfully — and I’d like to think there is a reason for this, Iridium doesn’t work in consumer marketing or advertising. We’re strictly corporate, focused on business services and institutional finance. This Op-Ed by Arthur Brooks reminds me of why we would be so poorly suited to that branding culture.

*     *     *

A few weeks ago, I was negligent in sharing another gem by David Carr, an article on just how truly effective — or ineffective — those ubiquitous enewsletters are.  We all rely on them and at IridiumGroup, we can confirm that all client organizations are pursuing original content as an important marketing technique to differentiate themselves and position as a leader in their respective categories of business. It’s an interesting article that champions a technology (and medium) that I was surprised to learn is now 40 years old.

For Email Newsletters, a Death Greatly Exaggerated

Amazon Unveils E-Book Subscription Service, With Some Notable Absences

 

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DWAYNE FLINCHUM
Founder & President,
IridiumGroup Inc.

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