Top tips for ambitious media businesses in 2011

Over the last year, through my consultancy work, and running the Specialist Media Show, I’ve spoken to many specialist publishing businesses who are rapidly taking their publications into digital, events and other new businesses.  There seems to be a new mood of optimism, of engagement with the new opportunities, and many who experimented in 2010 are now seeing their reach and revenues expand.  So here are my top five tips for ambitious consumer specialist or business to business publishers, who have big plans for 2011.

1. Think of yourself as a media brand

Your business isn’t defined by the content you commission or the products you create.  Its most important asset is its audience.  The content and the media platforms are just a means to gather together a like-minded community, who like what you have to say, and like each other.  Once you have your audience’s attention you can learn from them, encourage them to contribute their own expertise, and help your advertisers and commercial partners connect with them.  Rather than a magazine publisher, an event organiser or a specialist info provider, you are a media brand, a source of relevant content in a specific niche.

2. Diversify your revenue sources

Circulation and advertising – or their digital or live events equivalents – aren’t going to be enough.  Successful media brands now make money from online one-off payments, subscriptions, conferences, reader events, reader offers, webinars, training, data sales, sponsorships, research reports and commission on product sales.  Can you diversify your sources of revenue?

3. Keep experimenting with tiny ideas

In the wild west of digital publishing, there are no set rules.  Which means the only way to learn is to experiment, and to test out tiny steps.  This could be encouraging readers to contribute content, or vote on key issues, trying out an app, launching a new conference or webinar, adding video content to your site, promoting events through social media, taking an innovative approach to distribution, or creative ad campaigns.  You can also learn from other media businesses in similar or wildly different markets who have tested similar ideas.  For more inspiration take a look at the Media Pioneer awards on the Specialist Media Show website.  Read more about Dave Hepworth’s views on tiny ideas.

4. Join up the dots

Members of your audience/community expect to be able to consume content created by your media brand whenever and wherever they are, and at different levels of detail.  So make it easy for them to skip from your app to your digital edition to your website, your facebook page or linked-in group  or your events and print publications.  Cross referencing and cross promotion introduces people to the whole of your portfolio and strengthens your relationship.

5. Help your advertisers build their business

Traditional circulation revenues are probably capped.  Digital revenues via apps are exciting as they are instantly international but prices are low.  However, if you have created a strong media brand and an engaged community, then that has immense value to your advertisers.  A real understanding of who the advertiser wants to reach and how their message can be communicated in the right style makes for the foundations of a creative ad campaign that grows your advertisers business and secures their loyalty.

Good luck in your plans for 2011.  You’ll find more inspiring stories on this blog, in our regular newsletter, and on the Specialist Media Show website.

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About the author: Carolyn Morgan works with specialist media businesses to develop their business strategies in the turbulent media environment through her consultancy business Penmaen Media.  Read recommendations from past clientsContact us for an initial discussion about your strategic issues.  Carolyn runs the Specialist Media Show; please get in touch if you are interested in attending or contributing to the 2011 event.