Memo to Editors: Get Involved in Customers’ Growth
"If your customers’ business is growing, your business is growing."
The church-state divide is one of the strongest psychological barriers
in publishing. Nothing gets an editor worked up faster than when
someone from the "ad side" seems to interfere. Suspicion is automatic.
But the truth is that every publishing company has two essential
processes, says Network Communications Inc. CEO Dan McCarthy. There is
the production process and the business process. And for editors to be
effective today, they need to ask themselves what kind of editor they
want to be. "It may be that you just want to be a production-process
editor, and that’s fine," McCarthy says. "But then there are certain
conversations that you can’t be part of."
Establishing Core Principles
Publishing companies;especially their editors, but also
publishers in important ways;need to rethink what they do and how they
do it, McCarthy says. So in the last year or so, he has implemented a
program at his company to establish a set of core principles, and
actively obtain buy-in from the team. The message to NCI employees,
McCarthy says, is that in a $180 million company with real estate
guides, leasing directories and home design and remodeling magazines,
those core principles need to be clearly and obviously shared.
Magazines need to stop comparing themselves to other magazines. "That
is not where your primary competition is for your reader’s attention,"
McCarthy says. "The reader is spending a lot of time online. Media
properties are competing at the margin for people’s attention."
Consequently, the new definition of successful media franchises is to
drive action, McCarthy says. Successful editorial content will do the
same thing. "We don’t want people consuming our media, we want them to
take actions," McCarthy says. "We want them engaged with our media. How
do we get there?"
The starting point, he says, is creating a passion among your team in
the growth of customers. "If your customers’ business is growing, your
business is growing," McCarthy says. "So how do we grow business for
our customers? Driving leads in ways that are as measurable as
Everything, he says, needs to drive to an action. Including editorial.
"We want our readers to take action by virtue of the content. Some
number of those actions will be for the benefit of our advertisers,"
McCarthy says. "And the more of those we can generate will be better
for our leads."
All of which adds up to a radically different role for editors.
Publishing companies are flatter, McCarthy says, and roles that once
did not need to be involved in the business dialogue now need to be
brought in. "You cannot be involved in the conversation unless you are
sensitive to how the things you do have an impact on the other parts of
the business," McCarthy says. The church-state wall is the wrong way to
look at the business.
McCarthy, whose company is headquartered in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and
publishes in more than 600 markets nationwide, says he is instilling
this ethos through what he describes as a pretty standard process of
management meetings, senior retreats, group dialogue, and research on
consumers and advertisers. He says the approach has been driving faster
results at the company, which three years ago had $90 million in
revenue. The net result is an ongoing conversation that serves as a
path to a shared language of publishing. "We’re having conversations as
a company about what is really important in the business process, and
really trying to narrow it down," McCarthy says. "What is the
relationship between the Web and the print product? How do we create
content that is best for the reader and also gets results for the
In the end, he says, these are not new issues. And as it always has,
publishing depends utterly on credibility. "You cannot have a committed
reader unless you give them a trustworthy, high-quality editorial
product, and you cannot sell an advertiser unless you give them a
high-quality response to their ad."
Rethinking the Role of the Editor, and the Company
ﾕ Every publishing company is
flatter, and roles that once did not need to be involved in the
business dialogue now need to be brought in.
ﾕ In a more competitive world, the signal of success for a company is reader engagement.
ﾕ Engagement is measured by reader action.
ﾕ Great content drives reader action.
ﾕ Some reader actions will drive leads for advertisers.
ﾕ The editor has the opportunity to have a major influence on how the product works as a business.
ﾕ The church-state divide is not two sides of a wall, but a circle.
ﾕ A key element is creating a sense of passion in customer growth in all departments.
ﾕ It starts with getting staffers talking about developing a shared publishing language.
ﾕ Success is directly related to editorial credibility.