In the modern media environment, publishers need a formula for success that they can depend on—not just for today, but one that will allow them to adapt for the trends of tomorrow. That means embracing three key ingredients that every publisher needs to ensure future-readiness, regardless of size or market: integration, automation and cost-consciousness.
At this year’s Folio: Show in New York in late October, HCL Media Services hosted a panel of publishing industry experts for a wide-ranging discussion covering how media companies can incorporate all three elements and orient themselves for growth, even in the most challenging of times.
Prag Singh, practice head and AVP of media, publishing and entertainment at HCL America, kicked off the session by asking Craig Bauer—a printing and publishing industry veteran currently serving as global SVP and managing director of R.R. Donnelley’s Motifphotos.com—for his take on what’s happening in the industry and where things are headed.
Media companies are feeling squeezed, Bauer said, by the substantial costs associated with digitizing their products and their operations. And although partnering with firms like HCL can help make those costs more manageable, “it’s still a significant investment, both in infrastructure and skills. At the same time, though, customers are typically voting with their wallets for both digital and physical formats. So you’re not walking away from that, you’re solving for both.”
Claudio Goldbarg, chief integration officer at Informa Plc, concurred with Bauer’s assessment, noting that while advertisers are increasingly directing their dollars toward digital, the 30% slice of the digital advertising market left behind by Facebook, Google and Amazon is dominated by the 20 or so largest media companies. The opportunity for the rest of us, he said, is to provide advertisers with solutions that are targeted, measurable and attack specific client needs, “be it print, be it digital content marketing, a targeted event or in person.”
“We can still offer them something that a Facebook or a LinkedIn, in the B2B space, is not as capable of doing,” he added.
A declining revenue environment, where digital investment is required but margins need to be maintained, leads to tension between serving clients effectively while also operating more efficiently, Goldbarg said.
Integrating technology and data platforms remains a hurdle for many media companies, said Jon Dickinson, president and owner of CNI Corp., parent company of the ad ops automation platform Breeze.
“I go to media companies all the time, and I always say, if you want to take a hard assessment of your business, walk out into the sales department and ops. If you see Post-It notes, if you see printed lists, you’ve got a problem,” he said. “It’s real simple.”
It’s a learning curve, agreed Goldbarg, with a number of people up and down media companies only beginning to understand all of the various areas in which automation can help free up resources.
“An outside changing agent”—such as his own company’s recent mega-mergers with Penton and UBM—can help provide some necessary perspective in this area, Goldbarg added. “Sometimes having someone at the top saying, ‘there’s gotta be something different here,’ or bringing in someone who can really change the conversation—I think that is going to be a key way to go.”
Asked some specific ways he helps publishers integrate automation into their processes, Dickinson described Breeze’s client portal, to which advertisers can login and track how a campaign is pacing rather than needing to call up a sales rep.
“Another thing we’re doing is eliminating the email problem,” he said. “If there’s a year-long campaign, there are these months-long email threads with incredibly valuable information buried, that’s completely unactionable. We turned all of that into a ticketing workflow that’s tied to the campaign. Anybody at any time can check the campaign, see the IO, see how it’s pacing, see any operational notes, see the contact and data all in one place.”
The bottom line is that media companies have a critical need for the agility that automation enables, Dickinson said.
“There’s so much information [drawn from analyzing data] about how to increase your CPMs or new products or new markets, you have to be able to act quickly, and automation is critical for standardized workflows.”
Another reason media companies need to be agile is the changing regulatory environment, noted Singh, before asking Bauer how RR Donnelley is adapting to policy like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act, which takes effect in January 2020.
“We’re very careful regarding opt-in and opt-out management and our Salesforce marketing cloud manages our journeys, so when we are promoting a product, those that opt out do not get that customer journey email,” said Bauer. “We’ve got to make sure that all of our workflows and our vetted data is ready to be compliant.”
Goldbarg noted Informa’s somewhat unique situation: “We’re a UK-based company and so we have a lot of data compliance directives from the UK, which when you apply them in the U.S. would in many cases severely hamper or even kill some of our businesses.”
He said Informa has had to evaluate which of its businesses are purely U.S. businesses, and which can maintain compliance of brought to Europe, adding that CCPA will add another layer of difficulty when marketing to U.S. consumers.
All of this brought the discussion back to the idea of cost-consciousness—not “cost-cutting,” as Singh was careful to point out—but “taking money out from certain operations and investing it in growth areas.”
“This year, there’s really been a shift where people are recognizing that it’s hard to get good talent,” said Dickinson. “It’s hard to retain talent when your systems suck. Yeah, people want to keep their eye on profitability, but I think people are also understanding that efficient operations are a business advantage. So I think people are looking at technology differently than they traditionally have.”
Another shift in thinking, observed Goldbarg, is moving away from the “if you build it, they will come” mentality. Rather, proof of demand needs to come first, before anything is built or invested in.
“That’s something of a management shift for me,” he said. “It’s cost-consciousness or margin-consciousness, so you kind of cut on one end. You don’t do the investment until you know you have the product and the demand.”
HCL America Inc is a wholly owned subsidiary of HCL Technologies (HCL), a leading global technology company. HCL’s US team represents 114 nationalities across 21 states who collaborate with clients on technology innovation, complex engineering, and business transformation. HCL’s Media Services has enabled many Media, Digital Marketing and Publishing companies all across the globe in this transformation journey and has made it possible for them to align with market changes and grow financially. Learn more here.