The relationship between magazine publisher and technology is becoming ever more complex. For some, technology is so central it’s easy to begin to think that it’s what defines you. The issue calls up the classic argument: What’s more important, content or technology/delivery?
At this week’s MediaNext conference in New York one session attempted to tackle that question, though the two presenters came at it from different perspectives.
Blair Johnson, senior vice president, business development, at Cygnus Business Media, noted that the technology that social networks, and advertisers themselves, were creating were beginning to disintermediate the company. "The disruptions were allowing the brands to go directly to the consumer," he said. "If we can’t get [technology] right for ourselves, how are we going to get it right for our advertisers?"
For Cygnus, which subsequently built a proprietary CMS, created an integrated database and began aggressively using responsive design, the idea was technology would not only enable new business, it would keep advertisers from going off the reservation. In addition to its capabilities, it became a calling card.
"If all we are is a company that talks to an audience, then we’re at risk," he said. "We need to be a partner that has technology on the bleeding edge that can best help our marketing partners."
That sentiment was echoed later during the lunch keynote from Glam Media founder Samir Arora, by the way, who made no bones about describing Glam as a technology company.
But Johnson’s co-presenter put the focus back on content. "Unless you’re literally licensing software, please don’t call yourself a technology company," said John Siefert, CEO of Virgo Publishing. "If you’re a media company, that’s not what you do. You’re creating content and then people are advertising around that content. For us, the software that runs our business is critical, we would not exist without it. But what we are is a media company that creates content."
Siefert warned that industry trends can be prematurely exaggerated into mission-critical strategies. "People become so focused on the sex appeal of the technology that they don’t focus on the content and how it works inside that technology."
He pointed to marketing automation technology as one area where many publishers are potentially devaluing their audience. "We’ve gotten to the point where we’re way too reliant on automating the process of lead-gen, instead of listening to the audience and engaging. We’ve over-teched it. We want to be thought drivers for our audience instead of just looking at them as leads."
The way out of that trap, suggests Siefert, is to put process before technology. "A lot of times technology defines the process," he said. "What we try to do is define the process and find our build technology to support it."