SIPA 2011 insights: practical ideas for specialist publishers

The specialist publishing industry is in the midst of revolutionary change, with past publishing experience counting for far less in the digital future, according to speakers at SIPA’s annual UK congress on 13 July.  But there were plenty of inspiring ideas and practical advice from leaders of specialist media businesses.  SIPA is a US-based organisation, but with a growing membership in the UK and Europe.   There was a strong b2b focus, but plenty is applicable to niche consumer markets.  Here’s my take on the main themes, with some valuable advice for publishers migrating to digital:

1. Provide intelligence, not just information

Information is something you don’t know what to do with; while intelligence puts into context, conveys an insight or suggests a conclusion. Prove the value of your content: work out how it helps your customers make money or advance, succeed or progress.  (David Gilbertson, ex CEO Emap)

2.    Ignore mobile at your peril

Customers expect content to be available on all their devices (Matt Salt, Exec Director of SIPA)

3.    Marketing is now crucial

Find out how your audience works and how you can help them do their job better.  Use this insight to shape the product; don’t leave it to the editorial team.  Continually analyse how customers use your site and use this to refine the content. (DG, David Shepherd, RBI)

4.    Convene your community

Create opportunities to get your audience face to face to network, transact, look, be inspired, celebrate and reward.  Growing sectors for SIPA’s members are live events and e-learning (DG, MS)

5.    Tease prospective subscribers

Offer prospects snippets of your content so they taste the quality; prove the business value and then convert.  Over-deliver to build advocates and referrals. (Susanna Kempe, WGSN)

6.    Test site licenses

Site licences can more than double revenue per corporate customer.  Once content is protected, allowing all staff to access it provides greater value to client. (Ken Cooke, Incisive)

7.    Benefits may be indirect

Social media may not have a direct ROI, but creates a community that can be monetised later.  Apps can dramatically drive online engagement and subsequently retention. (Jane Wilkinson, Institutional Investor)

8.    Embrace curated third-party content

It turns your site to a destination for your niche audience.  Invite external contributors/bloggers. (DS)

9.    Involve the whole team

Editorial, marketing, sales and particularly tech people should understand each other’s roles and all be involved in the plan.

10.    Consider going global

Exposure to international markets will cushion against a further US/UK downturn (JW)

If you attended the SIPA congress and have other insights to add, or you have  experiences to share, please comment below.  Or join the Specialist Media Network on Linked-in to swap ideas and network with over 650 specialist media professionals.

About the author:  Carolyn Morgan runs Penmaen Media, a consultancy providing specialist publishers with advice on their digital strategy.  Carolyn also runs the Specialist Media Show, an annual event for specialist media professionals to swap ideas and learn from their peers, providing a rich source of case studies and examples for Penmaen Media’s consulting clients.  If you’d like an initial conversation to discuss the issues you face in your niche publishing business, please contact us for a chat.