Radical ideas for consumer and b2b publishers

The second Specialist Media Conference raised some radical thinking for niche consumer and business publishers, with people leading successful specialist media businesses sharing candid views about their experimentation with digital media and building communities. The MDs and publishers attending could listen to first hand accounts of innovation in digital media and events, question the speakers and pick up practical tips.  What was notable was the openness of the speakers and their willingness to discuss what was working on their business.  Delegates found it an inspiring day, and welcomed the chance to talk honestly with their peers in practical round tables and in the breaks.  Here’s the highlights if you missed it:

1.  Get obsessed with data on your customers

Ashley Friedlein of Econsultancy suggested publishers become as obsessed with data as etailers, and demonstrated live how he can identify exactly who is browsing which page on his site; how potentially valuable they are and even call them up.  Every publisher in the room instantly wanted their own “web”

2. Use content from everywhere and play games with readers

Ryan O Meara of Total Pet Publishing hates the waste in traditional print publishing and exhorted publishers to reuse their content as ebooks and web articles. Duncan Tickell of Magicalia introduced “gaming” to the outdoor market and saw a dramatic rise in forum posts and reader reviews. Miles Galliford shared how Preaching today charges members for a database of sermon ideas, many contributed by members – and even downloadable videos.

3. Experiment with new platforms and engage with the providers

Ben Greenish of Spectator encouraged publishers to build constructive relationships with Kindle and Apple to get better deals; the Spectator makes 4x as much on Kindle as Apple. The Consumer Media panel are still bullish about print – at least for the next 5 years…

4. Fit B2B media into people’s work lives

Andy Cook of VRL Financial described their shift from print and news to data and charts online, and shared how he got editors to think in charts not words. Jeska Harrington Gould of Research explained how a site-licence business is different: sales people need to understand workflow and a good support team is essential.  Jeremy Phillips of Strategy Eye showed how they tailor content to suit their audience and fit into their daily routine to develop high value subscriptions.

5. Write copy to engage not just inform – and re-cycle and repackage

Ben Heald of Sift said community was the heart and soul of Accounting web, and editors must be encouraged to write copy to engage rather than inform. Peter Houston of Advanstar reminded editors of the value of recycling & repackaging content for digital channels: it’s not a repeat if you haven’t already seen it.

Round table discussions on managing ad teams, mobile apps, paid content, digital editions and events were so animated people didn’t want to stop for tea.

Barrie Gunter of University of Leicester drew out the contrasts between b2b and b2c from the show’s research into 200 publishers and felt that adoption of mobile apps was now at a tipping point.  Jim Bilton of Wessenden showed that print is still core to revenues for many publishing businesses, although digital is growing faster and events are becoming more important.  Most consumers, annoyingly, want digital versions of titles bundled (free) with print; only a minority would be happy just with digital.

The final panel felt the future was hard to predict, so experimentation was the best route, and media businesses had to work hard at engaging their own community before others got there first.

Do you agree with these views?  Please comment below, or join the Specialist Media Network on Linked in and swap ideas with 600 other specialist media people, including many of the speakers.