At the end of each year, it has become habit for me to look back at the wins and losses I have experienced as a publisher in the media industry. Now, with twenty years of experience under my belt, I have come to one conclusion: the only thing constant in my business is change.
I’ve witnessed how our consumption of media has transformed from largely print into a complex ecosystem of traditional websites, including social media, as well as legacy print products along video and audio products. While things are beginning to click again on the business side of the industry; during its transition, the market dipped into what I call the “lost years,” ranging from about 2008 until 2014. It was during this time that traditional budgets dropped and many a fine publisher was no more.
At first, social media budgets were abundant and ad agencies were clamoring to put money into this emerging media superpower. This was fun for a while but it didn’t last, it wasn’t sustainable. Eventually advertising dried up, at first for print and then for online, then ultimately even social started to feel the pinch.
They were dark days to be sure. PR companies began to fill-in where objective content used to exist. Organizations let go veteran journalists and writers, replacing them with interns, fresh grads and wire services.
Another thing happened during these years that perhaps gets talked about much less: the growth of the self-publisher. This trend applies to everyone from a simple blogger or e-book author, to modern media empires like Vice and Gawker. It also applies to my company, Promotive Communications, which treated these turbulent times as an opportunity to re-tool and re-focus. Luckily we were small and versatile enough to pull the transition off.
So, here we are now. We’ve worked our way through a number of new fads. Some worked and some didn’t. For example, mobile has proven to be a game changer thanks to the growth of smartphones. But some other fads have faded. Media consumption on tablets was expected to be the next stage of this mobile revolution, but for many people in the industry, the tablet media market is too boutique and mass adoption may never be realized.
Social is another trend that has been hard to predict. There are now so many facets and subtleties in the social media sphere that you need to hire professionals to navigate your company through safely. People who try to go it alone without professional help on social may live to regret the day they ever signed their company up for Facebook in the first place.
Business has even returned, in some degree, to print; it’s just no longer the flagship of a media company, more like the bread and butter.
What was true twenty years ago is still true today, media companies need to have quality content and a community of readers to survive—what has changed is how versatile you have to be to get your product into those readers’ hands.
There are other innovations that have helped the industry stay afloat, like lead gen programs, event management and cost of engagement. There is still business to be had and opportunities to generate revenue, you just need to know where to look.
One thing is sure; brand is still king and brand momentum is more important than ever. Creativity in not only content, but advertising and distribution should be at the center of any media company’s brand in 2016.
Recently some of our clients said they did not have budgets for event sponsorships. They did, however, have budgets for lead gen campaigns. So what did we do? Well, we got creative. We now offer an opportunity to be a sponsor of an event and to pay for it through qualified attendee lead. For example, you could produce an executive event and charge $200 per lead based on the number of folks in the room. By adding marketing as a build-in to that service, your vendors will see their ROI more clearly. Before you know it, you have made yourself a viable business model.
I hope this helps and I wish all marketers and publishers success in the New Year.
“Keep calm and publish on,”
J. Richard Jones