The tagline for American Business Media’s 2007 Spring Meeting was "Transformation Now," but Aaron Kahlow, managing partner at BusinessOnLine and speaker at the event, questioned whether b-to-b publishers are really serious about that transformation. "Publishers are looking for the quick fix on the digital side," he said. "We need to step back and define the problem."
While his fellow panelists gently reminded Kahlow that it is revenue, not content, that is ultimately king, he offered five recommendations for publishers looking to make online a real business.
Build for the User First
Do the research and review the customer data to find out what your readers really need. "Publishers get asked if they know what their readers want and they say, ﾑOf course, we’ve been in business for 20 years,’ but that’s not the same thing," said Kahlow, who cited consumereports.com and Google as models of companies that focused on the business plan for the user, then layered advertising on top of it. "If we think about advertising first, we will fail," he added.
Maximize Your Content Assets
"As publishers, you are in control but you need to make it Web friendly," said Kahlow. "Putting content into PDFs does not mean you’re part of the digital revolution."
Advertising Is Dead
While it’s obviously not dead in itself, the way people advertise in print is not the same (or shouldn’t be the same) way they do it online. "You are not in control, the reader is," says Kahlow. "If you are not giving them what they want, the user will just delete your e-mail or go to the next Web site. You need to advertise contextually. It’s no longer about the big banner on your homepage."
Aggressively Test New Models
"The telegraph was one-way, and it was replaced by the telephone, which was two-way," said Kahlow. "We’re not going back to one-way communication. The conversation is happening whether you’re part of it or not."
It Will Never Be the Same, So Get Over It
"Print revenue has no direct correlation to online dollars," said Kahlow. "There is no magic formula for this, we’re all trying to discover a new way."