Thursday, May 03, 2007

The New Publishing Org Chart BY Eric Shanfelt (Blog)

BoSacks Speaks Out: This is an opportunity for real perspective. Today, in another email I have also published an interview with Samir Husni , A.K.A Mr. Magazine. If you can read Eric's article below and then the counter point with Samir's interview . . . Then you will have two divergent points of view.
Please tell me what your opinion is on these subjects.

"A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding."
Marshall McLuhan (Canadian communications theorist Educator, Writer and Social Reformer, 1911- 1980)

The New Publishing Org Chart BY Eric Shanfelt (Blog)

(NOTE: This article first appeared in the March 2007 issue of Folio Magazine. Below is the full, un-edited version.)

Your readers are online. Your advertisers are spending money online or will be shortly. Online-only competitors are innovating their way into your market and gaining momentum. In most markets revenue is shifting from print to online and there are new, non- traditional revenue streams to go after.

You need to innovate and adapt rapidly, but your number one market position in print doesn't automatically translate into a number one position online. To truly capture online revenue opportunities and protect your market position, it's not enough to hire a webmaster and a token inside emedia sales person.

So what's the answer? You need an emedia cultural overhaul. Over the past ten years I've had the privilege of helping dozens of publishers in a wide variety of markets develop their emedia businesses. Regardless of your market or where you are in developing online media, the steps to transforming your organization into an emedia powerhouse remain the same.

It Starts at the Top
The road begins with an attitude change at the very top of the organization. I am still amazed how many publishing executives do not believe their market is online. Go to your favorite search engine and enter key terms for your market. Ask your readers what sites they use. You will discover more online resources, communities, advertisers, and successful media models than you thought possible. They may not be traditional companies with traditional media business models, but there they are creating content, aggregating an audience, and connecting buyers and sellers online.

Another objection is publishers who don't want to "step over print dollars to pick up online dimes." Granted in most markets print is still the lion's share of a publication's total revenue. Online appears difficult because there are different business dynamics, requires dedicated focus, and seems like extra effort for less money. But markets continue to mature with respect to online and today's online dimes will become tomorrow's dollars. I can already point you to several publications that have turned the corner and now make as much or more money online than in print - and at higher margins I might add.

Afraid of cannibalizing your print publication? Your online competitors aren't. They are busy building online resources and want to undercut your prices, deliver better value for readers and advertisers, and make money while doing it. As dollars continue to shift online, don't lament the change. Embrace it, go after it, and keep the revenue for yourself. If anyone is going to cannibalize your print revenue, make sure it's you and not someone else. Remember, it's not about growing print or emedia revenues specifically. It's about growing total revenue and profit across your brand.

Embrace New Roles
There is no room for print publishers any more. In today's media world, you must make the transition to a brand manager representing an editorial position and value to your readers and advertisers across multiple media channels. Your goal is to grow total revenues and profit across your brand whether it come from print, online, in-person, data, or any other source.

Likewise, sellers can no longer survive selling 12x print schedules each fall. Marketers are under pressure to perform and want solutions targeted to their specific marketing needs year-round. They want creativity and quantifiable results. Sellers take note: bring innovative print and emedia solutions that meet your customers' marketing objectives on a regular basis or lose out on business and be replaced by others who can.

In this new publishing age, circulation managers must become audience development managers. Yes, print circulation and audits are still critical, but now must be augmented by developing email lists, managing web site registration, generating attendees for webcasts, and managing lead generation programs for advertisers. An understanding of online privacy laws, dynamics of email delivery, and how to prevent list burnout is critical. Make the transition from managing a print circulation to managing a database of readers that consume a wide variety of products.

For editors, the mental transition is about no longer being just the authoritative source of information on a periodic cycle. Yes, there is still a role for authoritative information, but it's now also about facilitating information exchange and interaction among readers, advertisers, associations and even your competitors - all on a continual and immediate basis. It's about creating interactive databases and tools; aggregating, filtering and organizing content from the entire community; fostering (not controlling) online communities; and developing content for web seminars and online video. Adapt to these new roles and it can be the most fun you've ever had as an editor. Resist and watch your readers go elsewhere for their information.

There are also new roles for accounting, IT, production, and even HR. I don't have room here to elaborate, but how you structure these groups can significantly impede or accelerate your emedia growth.

Give It Focus
Finally, you must give online media the focus it needs to fully develop its potential. This doesn't mean you need to invest millions of dollars into people and infrastructure. Quite the contrary, you can grow rapidly with very modest investment. But the most critical investment is hiring a dedicated person to oversee your online efforts. This is not an easy job, nor an easy person to find. They need to know online media intimately, but also understand the dynamics of print publishing. They need to create product development and marketing plans and make your editors, sellers, and circulation managers feel ownership without allowing those same people to bog down progress. They need to train and support the sales staff, talk with customers, and ensure that content and ad production processes are rock solid to deliver results. They should report directly to the head of the organization (the CEO at the company level or the group director/publisher at the business unit level), have bottom line responsibility for online, and have the authority to make the decisions required to grow the business.

Most importantly, they need to help you transform your entire organization into being just as comfortable and proficient with online media as it is with print. They need to help your editors, sellers, marketers, circulation, and production staff adapt to the dynamics of online publishing. Ultimately your goal, and the goal of the eMedia Product Manager, is to equip your entire staff to serve your readers and advertisers regardless of which medium they choose to use and grow your business in the process. After all, growing your overall publishing business should be the driving force of every publishing executive.

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