The U.S. Postal Service appears to be gearing up for an entrance into the magazine retail market, according to meeting notes from theÂ Mailers' Technical Advisory CommitteeÂ (MTAC) quarterly meetings over the past year. Traditional newsstand sales have been discussed, as well as digital options via USPS.com and mobile devices.
A summary of the group's most recent November gathering--first mentionedÂ this weekend on the blog Dead Tree Edition--notes: "The USPS is moving forward on a plan to offer magazine subscriptions for sale on USPS.com." And later adds: "The USPS and mailers are developing a plan to have posters in retail sites with QR codes and other ways of linking to magazine subscriptions."
These notes come on the heels of anÂ August meetingÂ where Kelly Sigmon, USPS VP of Channel Access, gave an address entitled "Magazines at USPS Retail" and indicated the Postal Service "is open to a test in 25-50 locations."
SimilarÂ mentions--overwhelmingly positive--have appeared in meeting notes since February.
The response from publishers seems to be less enthusiastic though.
Slides from aÂ product development presentationÂ given at the meeting available on the MTAC website hint at trepidation, saying: "Implementation and economic challenges limiting interest with Publishers."
Several related parties, including Sigmon, declined interview requests, and, after multiple denials the project existed, a USPS spokesperson admitted the program had not progressed beyond "the idea phase."
Another industry source confirmed thatÂ Synapse, a large-scale magazine distributor with ties to major publishers including Hearst, Time, Conde Nast and Meredith, had been involved in the project but was unsure of where it stood at the moment. Synapse also declined comment.
Right now, it seems clear the USPS wants in.
It's just up to publishers to open the door.
Michael Rondon is an associate editor for FOLIO: Magazine. You can reach him at email@example.com.Â and follow him on Twitter @Mike_Rondon.
Media companies, and especially those in the b-to-b space, are increasingly reliant on events as a vital way to diversify a portfolio. Yet, as reported by FOLIO: today, even growth in the events sector seems to be slowing.
However, harnessing the power of social media is one way that media companies can hold the attention of customers and consumers beyond the week or month a magazine is on sale--or an event is in session. That was one takeaway provided by Eric Ly, the co-founder of LinkedIn and keynote speaker at the International Association of Exhibitions and Eventsâ€™ annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. on Wednesday.
â€śWe werenâ€™t cool enough to create Facebook,â€ť said Ly. â€śSo we tried to create something useful instead.â€ť
Ly, joined onstage by Rick Calvert, moderator of the address and head of New Media Expo, was speaking to a crowd of about 400 professionals as the CEO of another startup nowâ€”matchmaking provider Presdo. Ly discussed the role of social media in the face-to-face industry.
â€śI used to go to a lot of tech events,â€ť he said. â€śPeople want to get together, they want to socialize and have really important business relationships and friendships come out of that experience. I would go to those events andâ€”I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m alone in experiencing thisâ€”you walk in and see a room full of people really not knowing who you should meet.â€ť
â€śIn face-to-face, and especially events, itâ€™s really about connecting people,â€ť he added. â€śThat actually turns out to be really hard to do.â€ť
Ly noted several times that he sees social as a compliment to face-to-face interaction howeverâ€”not a replacement. While it can be a useful tool in matchmaking and extending relationships beyond the time and space limitations of an event, social is not an answer in itself.
â€śI think that face-to-face is never going to go away,â€ť he said. â€śWe are humans, we want to be in contact with other people, we want to develop trustâ€”and those kinds of things are really hard to do online.â€ť
Calvert also broached LinkedInâ€™s own potential as an event provider. Despite shuttering itâ€™s proprietary events app in late-November, the social mega-site could still be poised for a head-on collision with the industry.
Admittedly theorizing, Ly suggested the move could simply have been the closing of an unsuccessful product, or perhaps, a hint that LinkedIn was going to get into the events business itself.
While that prospect may be daunting for many in the event industry, Ly doesnâ€™t think it would work.
â€śThereâ€™s so much value in face-to-face interaction, itâ€™s an industry of $200 billion,â€ť he said. â€śThose kinds of abilities, skills and talents I donâ€™t think are going to be replaced any time soon by a Silicon Valley company.â€ť
Michael Rondon is an associate editor at FOLIO: magazine.
Whenever you do a promotion, it is always worthwhile building in a testâ€”you can learn so much from testing and there are so many different things you can try.
While $60.00 can sound like quite a lot of money, expressed as 60 cents per 100 issues can somehow seems far cheaper. How do I know this? I recently got this offer from The Economist and I subscribed straight away. In fact, my eyes were so focused on the â€ś60 centsâ€ť when I got to the check out page and saw the amount of $60.00, I had a moment of panicâ€”but I subscribed all the same.
If you cannot test a price, test a termâ€”$60.00 for one year or $35.00 for six months. A test of this type will tell you lots about your readers and if the test fails, well, actually no test fails, you just learn and move on to the next test.
â€śPay in Advanceâ€ť as opposed to â€śBill Me Laterâ€ť is a good test to try. If your magazine is not well known, â€śBill Meâ€ť is often the stronger offer. I will always try out a â€śBill Meâ€ť offer to review a publication but will think twice about having to pay some money up frontâ€”even with a money-back guarantee.
Remember, you can only really test one thing at one time. If you test price and term together as outlined above, and the test wins against your control, you will not know what made it winâ€”price or term. So, test price or test term, not both together.
Testing used to be far more expensive than it is now, mainly due to the invention of email. By sending out emails on a regular basis, you can test yourself silly if you want and learn a great deal. However, what works in one medium may not work for another. If you test a â€ś50% Off The Cover Priceâ€ť offer in an email and it wins, then for email this would become your new control. But, donâ€™t then turn to direct mail, phone or fax with the same offer and expect the same resultâ€”it probably wonâ€™t happen. What you need to do is take what you learned from one medium and then test it in another medium and see what happens.
You can test design and copy as well, but remember just because you do not like the creative does not mean it should not be tested. We used to mail out a really bad re-qualification effort for a client that was a lurid pink matched with a green (the effort, not the client). It was so bright it used to make us all feel ill just looking at it. Have you ever seen a black and white cover of a magazine that is shaded pink? The trouble was it got the best response ever. Every yearâ€”year in, year outâ€”we tested something against this stripy pink and green abomination, but the abomination always won. We even had a rival company come in and look at all the efforts we sent, and the first thing they said was, â€śThis has to go, it is awfulâ€ťâ€”and they were right, but it got the most orders and at the end of the day, that is what it is all about.
So build in some tests, you will learn a lot and it does not have to be expensive. Remember that when a test wins, it becomes the new controlâ€”and then you start testing against that. Who said life is a circle?
Roy Beagley is Director of Publishing Services for Tyson Associates Inc. Roy started his career at The Economist and then The Spectator in London. He moved to the United States in 1992 and since then he has worked with Tyson Associates handling many controlled and comsumer publications. He is editor of Circspot.com, a website for circulation and audience development professionals.
An essay by Craig Mod has been making the rounds lately among media watchers. It's a terrific read. Mod, a current independent writer and former Flipbook employee, touts what he's calling the Subcompact Manifesto, which places a premium on a minimalist approach to digital publishing. His manifesto emerges out of one of the main criticisms 'traditional' publishers have received for their tablet magazines and apps: They're unwieldy, hard to use, have too many bells and whistles and take up too much room. But most importantly, they're tied to print production schedules, design and pricing. In other words, tablet editions are not exploiting the medium in the open, nimble, socially-forward way they could and/or should be.As Mod says: So why do so many of our digital magazines publish on the same schedule, with the same number of articles as their print counterparts? Using the same covers? Of course, they do because itâ€™s easier to maintain identical schedules across mediums. To not design twice. To not test twice (or, at all).Unfortunatelyâ€”from a medium-specific user experience point of viewâ€”itâ€™s almost impossible to produce a digitally indigenous magazine beholden to those legacy constraints. Why? Not least because we use tablets and smartphones very differently than we use printed publications.The key here, for Mod, is the "indigenous magazine"â€”a product born exclusively for the mobile-digital platform, free of any print production and pricing frameworks. He goes on to highlight The Magazine, created by Marco Arment, as a perfect example of the digitally indigenous magazine. It's short (four or five articles), it's design is breezy and open, it's file size is small, it's cheap and easy to snack on.This all may be true, and there's probably an audience for The Magazine and future brands just like it. But what's wrong with publishing a tablet magazine that's full of print magazine design and rich media content, that's $4.99 for a single copy and might take all night to download to Apple's Newsstand? Nothing, really, because there's room in the market for the digitally indigenous magazine and the digital magazine that's married, for good or bad, to its print namesake. I understand that with digital comes an expectation of disruption and re-invention. And not just an expectation, but actual disruption. But it's also a world where all sorts of business models live and play.I don't think Mod is necessarily saying all publishers need to drop their old-school, print-legacy-based digital magazines and start producing $2, 4-article, scrolling mini-apps. He does say though, that publishers are balking at producing products like these because they're not based on a familiar model and they're not likely to produce immediate and significant returns. Funnily enough, neither have the full-blown tablet magazines, for now. What will be interesting to see is how much the subcompact model informs or influences the sedan version of digital magazinesâ€”or simply rides next to it.
Business-to-business marketers are underutilizing social media and its potential, according to new data from Eloqua, a marketing automation company. Of 548 b-to-b marketers surveyed by Eloqua, about 40 percent say they are not yet using social media marketing. Additionally, about 25 percent of respondents say they donâ€™t know how their company plans to use social media marketing in the future.
Although many departments may contribute to social media, respondents say that social networking platforms are most often managed by a public relations department (26 percent), followed by a variety of departments (23 percent) or a website team (11 percent). Still, about 23 percent of respondents say that social media is not under the control of any one department.
About 43 percent of respondents say that their company has no strategy in place for incorporating social media into demand generation. About 20 percent said a lack of tools prevent them from using social media for lead generation and another 33 percent say a lack of strategy is attributed to an unclear understanding of the value of social media.
Business-to-business companies that are using social media platforms for a variety of reasons:
In the future, b-to-b companies expect a variety of benefits from social media, with most respondents (50 percent) saying it will help to increase reach and brand awareness. About 35 percent say driving inbound leads to increase revenue will be a benefit of social media, with 28 percent saying social networking will benefit their company when it comes to measurable impact on demand or revenue.
This data reinforces the notion that b-to-b marketers still need help when it comes to the social networking spaceâ€”something that content producers can assist them with. Publishers should look to expand marketing services groups to have a strong focus on social media, which will help publishers position themselves as a unique solution to a need in the marketplace.
T. J. Raphael is Associate Editor of FOLIO: Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
Media buyers who buy the products publishers sell now divide the media they manage into three categories:
But consider the emotional message these labels send.
"Owning" your own media makes marketers feel great and in control. Owning is good!
Everyone loves to "earn" free exposure on social media platforms.
But who really wants to "pay" for exposure they might be able to get for free through social media? Â
Of the three media categories, only "paid media" is named for a negative characteristic.
How did this happen? These category names came into common use around 2008 when social media was being added to media budgets. With the need to contrast social media with traditional media, the social media centric thinking of the time renamed traditional media as it contrasts to social, suddenly we became "paid media." This label casts a negative implication every time it is used.
There is a fix. Publishers need to work to change the label from "paid media" to "third party media," which is more descriptive and offers a significant benefit. While earned and owned media are highly effective at reaching existing customers, third-party media is far more effective at reaching non-customers. Current customers are much more likely to visit a company website or subscribe to a company newsletter. Non-customers, less so. Current customers much more likely to participate with a company Facebook page or subscribe to a company Twitter feed. Non-customers, not so much.
Third-party media, reaches customers and non-customers alike.
But it is no secret that marketing budgets have seen a big shift in the last few years. While marketing budgets have remained flat for the past few years dollars have moved out ofÂ third-party media (paid media), and into owned and earned media. This trend may have gone too far. Â In a study my company did earlier earlier this year that measured the marketing effectiveness of 34 companies in a B2B market and foundÂ that marketing was effective with an average of 55.6 percent of current customers, but only with 10.6 percent of non-customers.
There is a real case to be made for the benefits of third-party media. The more important winning new customers is for marketers, the more important third-party media becomes. I we can reposition what we sell from being "the media you have to pay for" to being "the media that best communicates with NEW customers" our media sales job will get easier.Â
For much of the last year, my colleagues and I have been working through a redesign of the home page of our flagship site, TheAtlantic.com. From whiteboard sketches and Google docs to Dunkinâ€™ Donuts and the occasional conference-call squabble, we completed the project thanks to the standard tools of 21st-century workplace collaboration.What was surprising, though, is how quickly the undertaking turned from â€śsprucing up the home pageâ€ť to â€śwhat is our mission and how should we achieve it?â€ť Midway through the process, in fact, we sought to avoid referring to the project as a redesign at all. That seemed to trivialize it, suggesting a facelift or a fresh coat of paint. The goal, we realized, was more strategic than aesthetic.As it should be. A lot had changed since we last revamped the home page in early 2010. Perhaps the biggest difference was the size of the audience, which grew from 3.8 million monthly unique visitors in February 2010 to 12.5 million in October 2012 (Omniture). Likewise, we have about three times more daily visits to the home page than we did back then. For all the side-door social and search referrals (which are by far the major drivers of our audience), the home page still claims between 15 and 20 percent of our daily page views. Now that it was attracting nearly 300,000 visits a day, we needed to serve those readers better.The goals we set out to accomplish, listed below, are hardly unique to The Atlantic. But familiar growing pains are not necessarily any easier to soothe. We tried, quite deliberately, to use the design process to fix problems and improve user experience. The mission included:â€˘ Give the home page more visual oomph. We went with a larger lead photo and lead headline, and allocated more real estate to promoting our visual features, â€śIn Focusâ€ť (our photo section) and video. We also adopted new typefaces and a cleaner look. I may sound confused; I just said a few paragraphs ago that the mission of the project was strategic, not aesthetic. Thatâ€™s true, but one strategic goal was to flex some visual muscle â€“ to reflect the more visual nature of the site, to keep pace with other sites that publish much larger home page photos than we do even now, and to ensure the focus of the page didnâ€™t shift too far toward ever-more sophisticated and visually emphatic ads.â€˘ Drive readers to the interior pages of the site. Six months ago, I wrote in this space that the home page matters, â€śbut not, perhaps, for the reasons you may think.â€ť The argument was that the home page is critical for conveying the sensibility and values of a site, for serving as a statement of the brand. So the page mattered even if it wasnâ€™t triggering very many clicks, at least relative to social and search. True, but why not optimize the page (and all our pages) to drive depth? With the new design, we have introduced skyboxes on all pages as well as what we call the Belt on the second screen of the home page. Now weâ€™re promoting 18 stories on the first screen and a half, compared to 13 before. To our eyes, at least, the page doesnâ€™t seem busier. â€˘ Fight the tyranny of the â€śright rail.â€ť The clickstream data shows that the standard right column of a page has become easy for readers to overlook. That long gutter is a line that eyeballs just donâ€™t cross. Unhappy about giving up 40 percent of our page, we decided to reclaim that real estate as a place for compelling content. To do that effectively, we got rid of the gutter.â€˘ Make the bottom half of the page more dynamic. In the 2010 redesign, we tried to make the top of the page look sharp. But we failed to require the same ambition of the rest of the page. One exercise we've been going through in the last year: call up a site, scroll down one or two screens, and then ask ourselves, How does that look? More and more we came to admire those sites that put real effort into the second, third, and fourth screens down. So we've tried to bring strong design to the whole page, not just to the top.
â€˘ Reflect the important role of social media. The Most Popular box tells readers what stories others are reading. Our social strip at the bottom of the page goes a bit deeper, indicating which stories are popping on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon. (Weâ€™ll be adding more services as our analytics permit.)â€˘ Give more of our on-staff writers regular presence. Our new Writers module promotes the latest posts from a fuller range of journalists on our team. â€˘ Create a higher-impact experience for advertisers. For both the edit and sales teams, clutter is the enemy. To cut down on the noise and give the ads more impact, we reduced the number of spots on our home page from a banner and two boxes to one box and one high-impact pushdown unit. In some circumstances, the page features only one standard ad.Â At the same time, we built in flexibility to test new native promotions that will allow us to surface custom advertiser content, labeled as such.â€˘ Promote our sister sites better. Since early 2010, we have added a new site to The Atlantic portfolio (The Atlantic Cities) and to our parent Atlantic Media Company portfolio (Quartz). With the new home page, weâ€™re allocating space, when editorially appropriate, to teasing stories from those sites, as well as creating a footer that features top stories from all our sites at all times.Â Itâ€™s been a week since we introduced our new home page. In the coming months, weâ€™ll be altering article and channel landing pages to reflect the new look out front. Of course, even then we wonâ€™t be done. In a constantly changing media environment where data and reader comments are both instantaneous, youâ€™re never done.
By 2017, about 600 million televisions worldwide will be connected to the Internet, at least according to the Connected TV Forecasts report from Digital TV Research.
At the start of the decade there were an estimated 48 million Internet connected televisions in the United States or 45 percent of the global total. By 2017, it is expected that there will be 147 million Internet connected televisions in the U.S., which will account for 25 percent of the global total. China will have 93 million connected TVs by 2017, up from a mere 2 million at the end of 2010.
As tablets and smartphones continue to grow along with the need to diversify revenues, publishers have seen the value of extending their reach to every device available. While it is unlikely that readers will ever use their televisions to actually read content, they will likely use these newly connected devices to visit Web pages and to watch video.
The Internet can be publishersâ€™ â€śside doorâ€ť into television, so to speak, and many are already working hard to produce videos that are tied to print magazine brands.
At the 2012 American Magazine Conference in San Francisco this fall, for example, enthusiast publisher Source Interlink Media said it was turning its eye to videoâ€”it now has a 45-person production crew and is focusing on entertainment-based streaming content.
â€śYouTube has allowed us to dive into episodic content and itâ€™s evolving to be able to provide a lot of advertising content,â€ť said Chris Argentieri, president of Source Interlink Media. Source in the digital age will be â€śtruly a diversified media company from a revenue standpoint,â€ť he added.
Hearst already has its YouTube Premium Channel initiative, which includes the Hello Style and the Car and Driver Channels. Time Inc.â€™s This Old House is using video to power its website relaunch and has the potential to roll out about 34 years of video programming from its companion television program. TheAtlantic.com launched a video channel in August 2011 and regional title New York magazine turned a content staple, Eat Cheap, into a five-part YouTube series.
YouTube is the second largest and most used search engine on the planet, rivaling only its parent company, Google. With so many Internet connected televisions anticipated to come in the next few years, expect to see the number of users not only increase but the number of publisher-branded YouTube channels as well.
T. J. Raphael is Associate Editor of FOLIO: Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
If your sales staff sells traditional media, understanding how paid search works is a big plus. Today, about half of all online ad dollars go to search, so it is important to understand where most of online money now goes.The first step is for media reps is to ask clients how much of their ad budget goes to search. Many are surprised at how much of the marketing plan goes to a format that started in its current form only 12 years agoâ€”2000 was the year Google first started selling advertising based on keywords.The year search really broke out was 2008. In that year Google indexed a trillion web pages, but more importantly, acquired web analytics giant DoubleClick enabling them to, "dramatically improve the effectiveness, measurably and performance of digital media for publishers, advertisers and agencies."Leveraging the resources of DoubleClick, Google was able to improveÂ the metrics for advertisers and offer "more precise metrics in order to judge the effectiveness of their campaigns." With improved metrics came better documentation of the effectiveness of search and and improved sales. Â Â Â Â The year 2008 was also the year b-to-b print advertising, a medium challenged with documenting results, started to falter. Coincidence? Hard to say.But let's look at the present. A recent study of b-to-b marketers from Marketing Sherpa showed budget allocation for paid search is now ahead of print advertising, no small feat for a medium where ads often cost between 30 cents and five dollars each. Think traditional media does not compete against search for ad dollars? Think again. Â Do your media reps know how to position their products against paid search? It would be best if they could.
After an 11-year stint as Wired's top editor, Chris Anderson is stepping down. According to a memo released late Friday by CondĂ© Nast CEO Charles Townsend, Anderson will leave the magazine, pursuing his "entrepreneurial dream." The announcement comes about 10 days after the publication announced it was increasing its rate base for the 11th consecutive year to 825,000--a bump of 3 percent or 25,000. Below is the full note from Townsend on Anderson's departure:
TodayÂ Chris Anderson, editor in chief ofÂ Wired,Â announced that he will be leaving CondĂ© Nast at the end of the year to become CEO of 3D Robotics, a company he cofounded several years ago.
â€śThis is an opportunity for me to pursue an entrepreneurial dream,â€ť Chris said. â€śIâ€™m confident thatÂ Wiredâ€™s mission to influence and chronicle the digital revolution is stronger than ever and will continue to expand and evolve.â€ť
Chris joinedÂ WiredÂ as editor in chief in 2001. During his tenure, the magazine received eight National Magazine Awards, including the prestigious top prize for General Excellence in 2005, 2007 and 2009. In 2010,Â AdweekÂ honoredÂ Â WiredÂ as its Magazine of the Decade.Â Â
As with every brand that challenges the current times and predicts the future,Â WiredÂ will now embark on the next phase of its quest to determine â€śwhat will matter.â€ťÂ Please join me in thanking Chris for his extraordinary contributions to theÂ WiredÂ franchise. We wish him the best of luck in his new venture and look forward to naming his successor shortly.
T.J. Raphael is a FOLIO: Magazine Associate Editor. Follow her on Twitter.
Two significant industry conferences in the last couple of weeks were dominated by the question of whether print is dead. At the American Magazine Conference two weeks ago, Ben Horowitz, co-founder, Andreessen Horowitz, said this:â€śBabies born now will never read anything in print. At the same time, people in their 40s and 50s will never stop reading print. Face the reality that print will eventually go away.â€ť (You may recall that Mark Andreessen and some college classmates invented the browser that became Netscape in 1994.)Similarly at the AMC, Jeffery Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC said this: â€śSome magazines will always remain in print. Especially those with strong design principles. However, the majority will see their print roots begin to completely break down by the end of the decade.â€ť(Itâ€™s worth noting that a futurist who heads â€śThe Center for the Digital Futureâ€ť would probably be fired for predicting the print business model will prevail into the future.)In a fiery opening speech at the AMC, the new CEO of MPA, Mary Brener, said the old-line magazine industry can prevail if it has â€śchutzpah and balls.â€ťâ€śI love magazines and I believe in magazines. I believe that magazinesâ€”on both print and digital platformsâ€”have a bright future. I am pissed that we as an industry have allowed others to hijack our story, our narrative.Â A narrative that is now dismissive of print magazines.â€ťBut I say the whole definition of the argumentâ€”print versus digitalâ€”misses the point. It frames the question inaccurately. Of course weâ€™re both.Berner also said, â€śWe are not in the printing business. We are in the content business.â€ť That reminded me of all the times Iâ€™ve heard industry prognosticators describe the supposedly fatal error of the railroad industry early in the last century. Railroads thought they were in the railroad business, the thinking went, when they actually were in the transportation business. Well, the truth is the railroadsâ€”with their thousands of miles of track and their expensive, highly specialized locomotives and heavy equipmentâ€”were in the railroad business. And railroads got superseded by better technologies in the form of cars and airplanes. That they didnâ€™t transform was not their fault. It was unrealistic to think they could. This pattern has been repeated countless times in the history of enterprise.But: Berner is right in saying the media companies are in the content business, and as such, should not be tied to a particular distribution form. At the other conference, the ACT III Experience at Samir Husniâ€™s Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, the keynoter, ASMEâ€™s Sid Holt, correctly said that no one really knows what the future will bring in media. Anyone who says they do is bluffing. But we do know this: Those who say print in its current form will live on, and ignores the opportunities and threats in new technologies, are playing a risky game.There are plenty of positive statistics presented by Berner and others:â€˘ The number of brands advertising in magazine mediaâ€¨has increased by 57 percent since 2009.â€˘ Combined unduplicated magazine media audiences, â€¨across print and online, have increased by 4 percent.â€˘ 91 percent of U.S. adults read magazines.â€˘ 96 percent of adults 18-24 read magazines.â€˘ The top driver of Web search is print magazines.But for every stat along those lines, there are other, unclear signals:â€˘ Magazine ad pages for the first half of 2012 are down 8.8 percent, according to PIB, following declines in consecutive prior years. â€˘ Ad spending on magazine media is declining. â€˘ Spending on marketersâ€™ own Web sites is dramatically increasing. â€˘ Technologies have emerged that connect buyers more directly to sellers, meaning the role of traditional media must evolve. At the ACT III conference, Bob Sacks said the loss of dominance doesnâ€™t necessarily equal death. But the truth is, sometimes it does equal death. New technologies frequently totally replace older ones. Has anyone bought a typewriter lately? Or a word processor? Horses supplied human land transportation for 6,000 years. They donâ€™t anymore. Have you bought an LP lately? Or film for your camera?And transitions can take a long time. Johannes Gutenberg gets credit for inventing the printing press, but the Phaistos Disk, discovered on Crete 104 years ago, is the earliest known printed document, dating to 1700 B.C., 3,100 years before Gutenberg. Why didnâ€™t printing take hold earlier? Because the technology was not enough of an improvement on existing technologies to cause people to change.And Nikolaus Otto built the first internal-combustion gas engine in 1866. But it wasnâ€™tâ€™t until the third decade of the 20th Century, nearly 70 years later, that cars became ubiquitous. And you can bet that at annual horse-and-buggy conferences and trade shows for every one of those 70 years, prognosticators were insisting there would always be a role for the horse and buggy. Bob Sacks is right. Weâ€™re in an era of realignment. And realignments can take a long time. In the meantime, we can better understand our customers, innovate, iterate and reinvent our businesses before someone else does for us.
I recently had the opportunity to attend an Intel conference where blockbuster film producer, executive and bestselling author Peter Guber spoke. In his speech, Peter emphasized the importance in business of being fully committed to an opportunity, and evoked the metaphor of Spanish conquistador HernĂˇn CortĂ©sâ€™ famous order to â€śburn the boats.â€ť Upon arriving in Mexico and facing the warriors of the entire Aztec nation, CortĂ©s knew the only viable exit strategy was to move forwardâ€”as the alternative would have meant utter failure (climbing back in boats and retreating to safety).As I think about the opportunities and challenges mobile represents to the media/publishing world, it strikes me that these organizations would do well to follow the same strategy.According to many sources, mobile platforms (smartphones, tablets) now account for more than 10 percent of media consumption. If you speak with publishers that produce rich content today, traffic to smart device platforms is approaching levels closer to 25 percent. Most of this audience engagement has come with little commitment on the product side to truly exploit the usage shift that is taking place. Publisher monetization on these device platforms is even worse, capturing barely 1 percent of ad spend.The mistake publishers are making is simply not dedicating the resources and commitment required to effectively optimize these new business opportunities. Publishers continue to manage the emerging platforms as extensions of current print, broadcast or digital businesses. While â€śmobile specialistsâ€ť are found embedded within these organizations, there is virtually no commitment to full, standalone teams of content, audience marketing, technology and product specialists solely focused on growing these â€śnew businessesâ€ť and effectively cannibalizing the legacy businesses before somebody else does it for them.A look back at the transition to desktop web illustrates an informative history. Most publishers pursued the same path of managing initial digital efforts as a part of existing business activities and fell hopelessly behind as new brands charged forward with the benefit of focus and clarity on the new market opportunity from a purely digital position.I worked at one of the only traditional media companies that took a different path. Ziff Davis set up its first interactive business (ZDNet) as its own, standalone business. It had its own executive, content, sales, marketing, technology and product teams. These teams could not fall back onto the safety of market-leading print business. The mission was to succeed online or fail tying. The boats were burned. It was a bold move executed by then-CEO, Eric Hippeau, that let to ZDNet establishing itself as a $100 million business and an early top-ten most-visited property as the Internet media market got rolling.Ironically, many of the very digital brands that took advantage of the unwillingness of the print market leaders to go all in, are now repeating the same mistake as we transition to mobile. As such, itâ€™s a new crop of mobile pure-plays that have assumed market leadership in key areas of audience footprint and advertising/monetization.The publishers that have established content brands, audience relationships and advertiser history are positioned to succeed wildly, but only if they burn the boats and put dedicated businesses, people and platforms in place to grab the opportunity. If they donâ€™t, history will surely repeat itself. The opportunity will quickly become a glaring liability as the majority of audiences and advertising dollars shift to mobile in the coming years, and marquee digital media brands die, as did many of the generation of print brands before them, who failed to make this vital transition.