2008: The Tipping Point is Here
Publishers need to quit faking online.
No, not that tipping point, where online revenue surpasses print. Your typical b-to-b publisher is probably at least five years away from that, and most consumer magazine publishers are even farther out.
The tipping point I'm talking about is the one in which the old clichĂ© about how "the railroads thought they were in the railroad business" will steamroll publishers in every sector-b-to-b and consumer-that still haven't realized that they aren't just in the magazine business. Nor are they in the "events business" or the "online business." No one business model is coming to the rescue. Trimming your print staff to prop up your online group will sabotage your best-known-and probably still biggest-product. Launching event after event will quickly fatigue your audience. (For all the talk about events, does anyone remember how played-out that industry was around 2001-2002? Events experience up-and-down cycles too.)
Publishers need to understand where each element fits in and how they work with each other. WTWH Media is a startup that has managed to gain ground in a hyper-competitive market dominated by Reed and Penton, primarily by being seen as the "so-called smart online guys." Yet, WTWH sees its print magazine, Design World, as "the aircraft carrier" that gives its online products authority, according to co-founder Scott McCafferty ("Start Up Stories: How to Launch in the Digital Age").
Quit faking it online. Make the investment in the back-end and in the new online people you need. Train your existing print staff-if they're truly interested in their role as information disseminators, they'll embrace the opportunity. We're no longer at the point where "everybody is still trying to figure it out"-a lot of people HAVE figured it out, many of them competitors you may not have even heard of yet. Monthly updates and banner ads don't cut it any more. But neither does saying "we provide content wherever they want it" unless you really mean it.