13 Vital Steps to Success Digital Publishers Should Take
By Mimi Thurgood – Senior Online Content Manager, Cosmopolitan South Africa
Publishing companies can quickly make digital profitable. The Digital Innovators Summit in Berlin showcased some of the greatest minds and most impressive case studies. Here are some key take-outs.
1 Mobile: It’s where the users are. John Wilpers from Innovation Media Consulting presented a trend report saying that mobile should be everyone’s primary focus. ‘If you’re in a meeting and mobile isn’t mentioned in the first 10 minutes, get up and leave. Be mobile-friendly by 21 April – or find a new job.’ Google has begun to penalise sites that aren’t optimised. Google is not an enemy you want to have.
2 Data: Data is everything. Actually, that’s a lie: what you do with the right data is everything. Measuring is not enough. Lutz Finger has written a book aptly named Ask, Measure, Learn. First you have to ask the right questions. Then you measure. Then – the most vital step – you do something valuable with the data you collected. Create profiles around your users. Let those insights help you serve them better.
3 People: ‘You have to hire competent people with the right attitude’. With the right competence and attitude, one person can change an organisation.’ Svein-Erik Hole, editor of Norway’s TU.no, attributes his publication’s success to the small number of people who helped transform the organisation from within.
4 Change: ‘If you’re a digital company, your job is to change constantly.’ David Nussbaum, CEO of F+W, has changed the brand’s logo and tagline three times in seven years, with hugely successful results. Your first job as a CEO is to get your team on board with your changes.
5 Users: If you’re not surprising, delighting and adding value to the lives of your customers/users/readers, you’ll lose them. Josh Macht from the Harvard Business Review says you should be obsessed with the user: ‘You can get caught up in the process and forget about the audience. Don’t lose track of the primary stakeholders: we’re trying to move towards being obsessed with them.’
6 Social media still matters: The trend now is towards closed platforms such as Snapchat and Whatsapp but that doesn’t mean social media is dead. John Avlon from The Daily Beast points out that, in fact, content shared within a closed network holds more clout.
7 E-mail: It isn’t going anywhere. As John Wilpers puts it, it’s the cockroach of the Internet – and it’s profitable. Far from being an outdated communication method, see it as a closed social network. And here’s the key: you’re inside it.
8 Workflow: You can’t become a new company with a new purpose (print publishing to digital publishing) without making workflow and personnel changes. Miina Lange explained how COSMO Finland taught the entire editorial team to code. There were tears – but now they have digital success. You also need digital and data experts. Hire them from tech companies.
9 Tools: You need to see what your content will look like on social before you publish it. You need good SEO. You need to A/B test your newsletters. Juliane Leopold from Buzzfeed Germany says it’s not optional. You have to maximise every single piece of content that goes out. Your competitors are doing it, so you can’t afford not to.
10 Innovation: ‘Technology is the price for showing up. If you don’t have technology and ease for data, you need to get it immediately,’ says Philip Thomas from Lions Festivals. Once you’ve got the tools, you have to remember your purpose and find a way to innovate. Keep your journalistic integrity. Be fearless. Have an opinion. Surprise. Delight.
11 Programmatic advertising: It’s happening. It’s the most efficient way to make the most money. It frees up your team and ensures you sell 100% of your inventory. Do it. Chris Kerwin, head of publishing for BBC Worldwide, says that they make a third of their digital profit from programmatic.
12 Paid content: Paywalls. Subscriptions. Somehow – and the solution won’t be the same for everyone – your users will come around to paying for content, the same way they do for print. Matern Blankesteijn has created a company called Blendle. It works like a Spotify music account. There are many ways to skin the paid-content cat and brands such as The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and The New York Times are doing it successfully. Eventually you’re going to have to stop giving away your best content for free.
13 Native advertising: John Wilpers summed this up expertly: ‘70% of readers want ad stories. 90% accept it. But don’t hoodwink readers. Tread carefully. Bad native is only bad execution.’