Publishers Need to ‘Slice, Dice’ Online Content for Easy Consumption
One key to survival is ability to deliver content ‘in any way imaginable.’
Let’s look at the recent evolution of television to see how the Internet has changed the shape of that business, as well as magazine publishing.
For decades, there were three major TV networks that tried to be all things to all people. A few new networks appeared in the ‘80s. FOX, for instance, focused on terrestrial broadcasting while most—including CNN and MTV— were part of the cable TV revolution. In the ‘90s, as cable became more available and increased the number of available channels, many more appeared and were focused on specific topics.
The emergence of the Internet—the ultimate low-cost distribution mechanism—accelerated the pace of new channel creation. New networks sprang up almost overnight. Going direct to the consumer became a concrete possibility for content producers. As consumers, we reap the benefit on a daily basis: endless choice and lower prices.
But there is a darker side to this equation. Traditional media companies—broadcasters and print publishers—have to adapt to this new environment. As we know, many print publishers are finding it particularly challenging.
Simply moving online may or may not ensure survival, let alone profitability. The key is to re-invent the business such that the advantages once enjoyed become advantages that can once again be exploited. Every large publisher or broadcaster has two key advantages: quality and breadth. Bringing these to bear against many small competitors can be hard. The cost of creating new channels—cable, terrestrial or online—remains relatively high for most large organizations.
Building a Network of Content
In the early use of the Internet, individual publications and TV networks took baby steps, creating Web sites that complemented or supplemented their traditional model. Each was built separately, probably using different technologies. How does a broadcaster with 500 shows end up with 50 Web sites? It’s simple: the most popular programs build their own Web sites.
Beyond the basic "onlining" of existing channels comes the creation of wholly new ones. How will a traditional publisher, with limited ability to create new channels at low cost, bring its breadth and quality to bear on a major celebrity crisis? How will traditional publishers compete with fully personalized models—like iGoogle and MyYahoo!—where each customer effectively creates their own “channel”?
The answer is that many of them won’t. Smaller, more agile players will provide the content, or the lens through which to view it, and profit handsomely.
Traditional publishers need to set themselves up so that all of their content can be sliced, diced and delivered in any way imaginable—with minimal effort and at low cost. They need to build what we call an Agile Content Network (ACN) that enables publishers to bring their quality and breadth of content to bear through this implementation. An ACN includes content management system that’s integrated with a logical index of all content as well as certain back-end capabilities (such as ad-serving, authentication, personalization, recommendations, and threaded discussions).
The competition is not going away; it is only going to get worse. Publishers that implement ACNs will adapt and survive … and survival is indeed the question.