Publishing & Making a Profit: Insights from the Media Industry
Over the past couple of months I’ve bookmarked news articles, blog posts, presentation decks and podcasts from leading figures within the media industry as they set out the long-term vision for their respective publications.
Andrew Rashbass at the Economist, Harvard Business Review’s Josh Macht and Ashley Highfield of Johnston Press have spoken about the direction they intend to lead their organisations over the next decade as they attempt to successfully navigate the challenges posed by a rapidly evolving media environment.
I’ve included the content below, (plus a few more) and they genuinely are recommended reading/listening if you want to gain an insight from those who have witnessed first-hand the web’s impact on publishing.
In fact, Rashbass states ‘the web demands a new approach’ to publishing as news is increasingly a shared, social and digital experience. In his presentation he talks about how media consumption habits are changing, the propensity for the Economist readers to own tablet devices, along with a smattering of consumer insights. Rashbass coined the term ‘lean back media’, which encapsulates the Tablet owning audience well, but most importantly he says ‘we must build reader-led business models from scratch’.
Reluctance to alter business models has led many traditional media outlets to struggle and that’s why it is interesting to read the Johnston Press’ transformation strategy and see how they intend to reshape their business and transform its fortunes. Johnston Press are pinning its hopes on going ‘digital first’ (rather than print), as well as the introduction of subscriptions based on average revenue per user (ARPU).
Controversially, they also want fewer journalists, and hope that community contributors and freelancers will make up the shortfall as they strive for 50% of their content to be user generated by 2020. It remains to be seen how the unions will react to this change, but it is encouraging to see Johnston Press offer multi-platform bundling across PCs, Tablets, Smartphones and print as they seek to diversify their revenue streams.
Multi-platform bundling is nothing new, indeed it is a strategy successfully employed by the Economist and Harvard Business Review, with the latter’s, Josh Macht perfectly surmising “it’s not an either/or question. It’s a matter of looking at each of the platforms and seeing how they can complement one another – print, web and tablet all have different characteristics and dynamics. Every time someone touches the brand digitally, for example, it increases the news-stand potential.”
Without wanting to go into too much detail, Macht, Rashbass and Highfield all touch upon the importance of publishers re-inventing, re-designing and re-launching in the digital age – or risk becoming irrelevant. Business models, publishing formats and online content have all changed as we move towards a multi-screen world and they will do all over again.
Here’s the selection of recent quotes, presentation decks and a podcast on publishing and making a profit in the future…
“Make no mistake, there is an inevitable move to digital. It’s coming at you and going to get you, so there’s no point in trying to ignore this if you want your publication to survive…That’s something that’s more immediate than people may realise. If you push me I would say that we will have a digital-only publication within 10 years.”
Josh Macht, Group Publisher for the Harvard Business Review Group
“The rebirth of lean-back media is seemingly a gentle, reassuring change for media businesses. It is actually a tsunami that demands urgent re-examination of everything that constitutes a media business.”
Andrew Rashbass, CEO the Economist
“The future of local media will however be very different in its delivery. It will be predominantly digital on a daily and hourly basis with most print editions being a weekly, in-depth read.”
Ashley Highfield, CEO Johnston Press