Why Major Magazine Companies Seem Unable to Monetize Their Brands Digitally - Steve Blacker
Published: July 15, 2011 at 08:02 PM GMT
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Last Updated: July 15, 2011 at 08:02 PM GMT
By Steve Blacker
1. While most major magazine companies have invested in their digital operations their investment, commitment and comfort level pales in the comparison to earlier major magazine launches such as Vanity Fair, People, Lucky, O The Oprah Magazine, etc.
2. Because the lion's share (90% or more) of any major magazine's profits and revenues come from the old print business model; even though the future is in digital these companies find it difficult to invest in something - Digital - that may take years to become profitable and reach its full potential. Major publishing companies also lack the engineers and highly innovative Digital creators that do not thrive or inhabit a staid and traditional business entity.
3. Couple that with the current management of most major magazine companies being print veterans, it is no surprise that their comfort level is more with print than digital. Eventually someone from a Google, Microsoft, etc. will be put in charge of a major magazine company. This will be good for print as someone who knows how to successfully create and market a brand digitally will be extremely comfortable with the most powerful media brands that exist i.e. Vogue, Sports Illustrated, Elle, Good Housekeeping, Cosmo, Better Homes & Gardens, etc. to mention just a few.
4. It seems hard to believe that a brand like Cosmo has not become a major On-line dating site. This year On-line dating sites will make over one billion dollars! Or that Vanity Fair or PEOPLE had not created something akin to the TMZ or Perez Hilton Web site. Is this a result of a lack of a financial commitment to Digital or having the right creative/editorial talent? Most likely a combination of the two.
5. It should seem obvious that one needs just one editorial staff to produce a print and digital version of a media brand. Same for ad sales. And shouldn't each print article list a web connection for that brand? And shouldn't there be a similar push pull going on with the Web site, Apps, etc. to get people interested in subscribing to the brand's print version? Forbes seems to have created a unique editorial business model linking print and Digital together under Lewis D'Vorkin leadership. How successful it is only time will tell. Ironically, the important corporate position of Editorial Director is most often held by a proven print veteran. Often times these people lack the same skill level with Digital that they have with print.
6. Does it make business sense for major publishers to have such large sales staffs and support groups to sell pages for their individual titles --- when the lions share - over 70% of all the pages sold are part of corporate packages. By realistically trimming individual titles print sales staffs the money could be found to properly invest in Digital.
7. "Digital Skunk Works" need to be established because the young Digital inventors and creators need to be housed within a non-corporate structure. The cost to invest in a Digital start up is far less than attempting to launch a new magazine. Matter of fact a "Skunk Works" could generate numerous projects on a yearly basis for less than two million dollars. One approach could be partnerships whereby the major publisher helps fund a project with a very small salary for the creators/inventors that allows them to own a small percentage of the venture if it succeeds.
8. If Publishers want to garner a reasonable market share of Digital ad dollars, etc. they need to make Digital much more of a priority. Most are acquiring existing Web sites, etc. rather than launching new ones as brand extensions. Might not have WebMd, CafeMom, LinkedIn; even Facebook have been created by a magazine company as part of a brand extension?
9. If Time Inc. or Conde Nast were ever for sale I believe either Google or Microsoft would buy them because of the strength of their brands and the untapped Digital potential they offer. For major publishers to reap the Digital rewards their brands offer they need to not only invest more but attract the necessary talent and give them access and control digitally of their print brands. A traditional print editor is not going to be able to come up with the necessary ideas to create Digital brand extensions. Worse they can under existing structures block new thinking in regard to launching a new platform. Editorial control of the print brand needs to be realigned and reorganized.
Steve's new book You Can't Fall Off The Floor - The Insiders' Guide to Re-Inventing Yourself and Your Career chronicles his 50 year career working for over 25 different companies with 189 lessons learned and insider tips from Gayle King, Cathie Black, Chuck Townsend and 28 others; Blacker is still going strong today as a partner in Frankfurt & Blacker Solutions, LLC. His web site is blacker-reinventions.com and e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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