Much of the change in our industry is being driven by the customer. How should publishers be reacting?
There are a couple major things that the consumer is driving. One is the desire to digest content without any of the restrictions of the distribution mechanism. We talk about disruption all the time, but from the consumer point of view it’s a natural evolution. The consumer doesn’t feel disrupted by the fact that they can read a magazine on an iPad. They just feel it’s more convenient. For us, it’s disruptive.
The second thing is what I would call the way in which all of us live in a social matrix. What’s the first thing you do when you take a picture on your smartphone? You sent it to somebody. I think that the consumer not only wants to digest information, but they also want to deploy that information easily into their set of social networks.
Data is playing a larger role in the publishing operation—from customer information to content production and advertising. How are data strategies changing to capitalize on cross-platform audiences and revenue opportunities?
I’m a believer that great content wins the race. The data that is now available enables us to generate much more targeted content that should be ever-more valuable.
Data, in support of how we refine the content that we deliver, will be enormously valuable. And it will be welcomed by the consumer, because you have the opportunity to know enough about me that you ought to be able to customize to my needs.
I have a theme this year, which might be strange coming from someone who runs a fulfillment company, but I think we’re going to start remembering we’re in business because we generate great content that large numbers of consumers find provocative, compelling and worth paying for. I think we need to focus less on the distribution mechanisms. It’s not so much about being there, it’s really about what do you deliver once you’re there.
Fulfillment services have evolved significantly from their print-centric roots. How is the fulfillment landscape changing to accommodate new market realities?
We’re no longer calling ourselves a fulfillment company. We’re really a technology company that delivers, along with other services, something that has traditionally been called fulfillment. In 2014 we’re going to jettison the word ‘fulfillment’ from our vocabulary—only because it’s too limiting. Your description of your services should equal what you’re actually delivering. We feel it doesn’t in our case any longer. We have a stated strategy and implementation that we can help you sell any product, any service, at any time, anywhere. Any good service provider stays in step with its client base and then also provides leadership in where it thinks things are going.
If you look at the products we’ve developed over the last couple years one of them is named eHub. We put the ‘hub’ in there because it isn’t about selling one thing. It’s the technology that sits in the middle of selling multiple things to consumers and being able to do that easily and synthesize and consolidate the data that publishers are gathering from each of these discrete brand extensions while still having a holistic understanding of the consumer.
It’s no longer about refining the subscription model, which we all did well. Now, there may be no subscription model. Some of the new products aren’t even sold through a subscription. Or some of the subscriptions are going to be more like the Netflix model or time-based, where you buy 50 hours of access as opposed to 12 issues.
What are some of the trends you’re seeing in customer acquisition and retention, especially as it relates to a cross-platform brand?
A trend I see is selling bundled services and products. The days of selling single-threaded magazines are going to diminish. The consumer is going to want the ability to buy a cluster of products. That’s going to extend into cross-publisher relationships.
Bundling will be critical in terms of the trends around customer acquisition and retention. It’s not enough just to sell them the magazine and then figure out how you upsell. We’re all going to be managing complexity at the expense of scale. Publishers are moving from a large-scale, high-revenue model into a much more fractured set of products and services that are going to be smaller in their individual value, but potentially larger in their aggregate value.