Doing It...Just Because
Who has a clearly defined Web strategy? Who has a dartboard approach, where youâre taking a stab at any promising new revenue stream in hopes that it will pay off?
Most publishers would probably admit to the dartboard approach. Part of that is because, as everyone likes to say, âNo one knows where this is going.â Experimentation is relatively cheap, and if something doesnât work, it can be gone the next day. âThe beauty of the digital world is that if something works, great,â said John Loughlin, executive vice president and general manager of Hearst Magazines, at the Digital Magazine Forum earlier this month. âIf not, you can just take it right down.â
The problem with the dartboard approach is that it stretches already overstretched magazine staffs even farther. Yes, everybody needs to be working online, from editorial to ad sales to marketing. Thatâs not even an argument any more. But is what youâre doing online serving a specific purpose or are you there just because your competitor is too? If you have a blog, whatâs the purpose? If youâre doing a Webinar, have you triple-checked the system before you go live? If youâre offering channels, have you worked out a pricing structure that makes sense for you as a publisher, after youâve paid off the writers and designers who create the channel?
Unless youâve been fleeced by a Web design firm that doesnât understand your market, getting almost any kind of Web functionality should be extremely affordable, if not free. Publishers like to say, "It cost us nothing but man hours.â True, but are those man hours being used wisely? âIntegratedâ is not a synonym for âonline-only.â The same staff is still producing magazines and events, and creating direct mail or maintaining the server. Itâs true that weâre all still experimenting with what works and what doesnât but have a rationale before going online.
Fortunately, as more and more Web products begin to pay off, weâll all be wiser, as well as wealthier. âOn thing a profitable business model letâs you do is choose whatâs important and whatâs not,â says Alec Dann, general manager of magazines online at Hanley Wood. âThe early days of the Internet were anarchy.â
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