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Online Content: The Strategies and the Threat



By Tony Silber
10/30/2006

As the magazine industry moves online, it is finding publishers already there, only not the print-centric kind. Internet-only publishers are proliferating, having realized that readers are online already, and that there are extraordinary, proven business models for distributing content via the Web. From early pioneers such as Slate and iVillage, to blog networks such as Gawker Media to social-networking sites like MySpace, online content brands are being born at a furious pace. Which leaves magazines in the dangerous position of potentially being a perennial step behind.

The Online Publishers Association serves this growing group of online content providers. It currently has about 50 members, a combination of Web pure-plays and traditionals with online extensions, including About.com, Meredith Interactive and The New York Times Co.
Folio: asked Pam Horan, president of the five-year-old organization, about the implications of this new world of content for traditional print-magazine publishers.

Q: What are the points of commonality among your members? What does a television company have in common with a magazine company in terms of online publishing?
A: OPA member companies create and distribute content online. They represent the leading newspaper, magazine, broadcast, cable and pure-play Internet brands. Most of all, they are places with strong brands, high-quality original content and serve a valuable audience. Whether you are a television company, magazine or newspaper, you face similar issues with building your online business.

Q: Do your members share staff with their company's print/broadcast/traditional brethren?
A: Many of our members do. Many have combined editorial, sales and marketing because they believe it allows them to better serve their readers and advertisers. For example, The New York Times has a single sales force that is industry rather than platform defined. Others have found success in creating online-only teams.

Q: Where is your likely growth going to come from?
A: There still are many newspaper, magazine, television and pure plays that are great targets for us. We regularly evaluate our membership criteria to determine how best to continue to evolve the organization.

Q: How does your association view the magazine industry?
A: Our membership includes many of the leading magazine brands such as Meredith, Rodale, Time Inc. and Conde Nast. Our research shows that the cross-media opportunities are significant for magazines (as well as newspaper and broadcast companies). For example, we released a cross-media consumption study in June based on the Ball State Middletown study that demonstrated how powerfully the Web can extend the reach of magazines.

Q: How are you relevant to magazine companies?
A: Overall, our members are aggressively working to build their online business. They are investing in creating assets that extend their brands and provide unique offerings that leverage the platform. For example, Rodale had extensive real time coverage of the Tour de France as well as complimentary content, commerce offerings and more not available in print.

Q: What do members and prospects say about the importance of the Web revenue opportunity for their companies?
A: Many of our members are experiencing explosive growth of their digital businesses while their traditional businesses are slowing.

Q: How big do you expect to be in members and supporting members in 12 months?
A: In the past 12 months, we have added 10 new members and eight new supporters which represents approximately 20 percent growth. Based on that, we expect to continue a strong growth rate over the next year.

Q: What is the single biggest challenge for members?
A: Our members are doing some of the best work in terms of developing and publishing great content, and also innovating in order to more deeply engage users. As with any business, it is also the basic challenge of making the investment (whether it be time or money) on the right projects, because there are so many opportunities.

Q: What is the single biggest issue for the association?
A: As our recent media consumption study revealed, the Internet accounts for 17 percent of the time consumers spend with all ad-supported media, but only 6 percent of overall advertising dollars. The OPA is committed to helping our members take advantage of the opportunity to more closely align ad spending and consumer usage. Our efforts focus on industry education and research.

By Tony Silber
10/30/2006







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