Twelve tips for 2012 for specialist publishers

The speed of technology change in media is accelerating, and consumers are adapting their behaviour and expectations. Whilst apparently daunting for the niche, independent consumer or b2b publisher, the reality is that there are now more opportunities than ever before to publish content on many channels worldwide and make money.

And the development of low-cost services, revenue share agreements and cloud based software are making new channels accessible to smaller media owners. Plus the good news is that niche audiences are far more loyal, want to connect with each other, and are willing to spend on their personal or professional interests.

This creates a fabulous opportunity for nimble, innovative media businesses to experiment and reach new audiences, long before the media leviathans have got round to calling a board meeting.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet some very inspiring specialist publishers this year, as clients, members of the Specialist Media Network I run on LinkedIn, or speakers at the Specialist Media Conference. I recently published a version of this article on the Specialist Media Show site: my twelve tips for budding Media Pioneers in 2012.

1. Try Tablets

There will be four times as many tablets in a couple of years, and Amazon and other android devices are giving Apple a run for its money. Newsstand has helped publishers multiply downloads up to ten times. Basic replica app services allow small titles to test this channel at low risk, before they work out a longer term plan.

2. Streamline content production

Publishing to print, tablet and web puts content management under the spotlight. New services are providing integrated CMS that save editorial teams time and allow copy, images and video to be used across multiple platforms.

3. Repackage and recycle

Specialist content has a longer shelf-life than the tyranny of the 30 day on-sale period, as many publishers are finding on iPad and Kindle. Simple repackaging of sections, columns, reviews into specials and themed issues are generating good revenues. Breakeven bookazines transported to tablet are becoming big contributors.

4. Socialise your own site

Building up communities on third party sites is all very well, and is great for generating traffic, but publishers now need to focus on adding social options to their own site, with blog comments and proprietary online communities.

5. Value free

Free sample issues on new channels such as iPad allow readers the equivalent of print magazine browsing time.  Publishers can showcase their excellent content, and create interesting opportunities for advertisers seeking a niche audience.

6. Connect your audience

Enthusiast consumer groups or niche professional or industry communities love to get together online or face to face. Many niche b2b publishers now find that conferences, breakfast briefings and networking events are a major contributor to revenues, eg shortlisted Media Pioneer Total Telecom.

7. Go global

Digital channels allow even small independents to tap into a worldwide audience. Niche publishers are often surprised by the appetite of global readers for English language publications. P1 aviation has changed its business model, focussing on the iPad, and is now developing Chinese and Russian editions.

8. Partner with advertisers

Ad rates continue to decline, so smart publishers must develop bespoke campaigns with their best advertisers that are focussed on helping them generate the right type of leads.

9. Make print special

Print still has to be part of the mix; only a small number of mostly b2b publications are now digital only. But print has to work harder, be more tactile and visually luscious, provide a special ad environment and connect readers to extra digital content. For Boat International, the print magazine is still the core of their ad proposition to luxury yacht suppliers.

10. Test transactions

In consumer markets, ad revenues are tough, so publishers need to find ways to take a bigger slice of the revenue their reviews generate. Factory Media has developed an online gear site around MPORA. Other niche publishers are selling specials, instruction, and event tickets online.

11. Become a data geek

Websites, mobile devices, social channels all provide stats on how content is consumed. Email providers track who is reading what. CRM systems monitor all interactions with a customer. Publishers need to find a way to bring all this info together to learn more about what their readers want and to provide an individualised service.

12. Select suppliers strategically

Small publishers can’t develop websites, apps and subscription systems in-house, so have to outsource. But these can be long term relationships, and it is important to ensure that content and reader data can be aggregated easily across different systems. So a careful approach is needed in selecting suppliers and ensuring they can work together.   Suppliers who make it easy to integrate their systems with complementary services will have a great advantage.

About the author:  Carolyn Morgan works with independent publishers to develop a practical digital strategy, through her consultancy business Penmaen Media.  We’re always happy to chat to publishers over the phone about their issues:  please contact us.  Carolyn also runs the Specialist Media Show: a conference, workshop programme and exhibition for niche consumer and b2b media owners, taking place on 24 May 2012 at Think Tank, Birmingham.   Online free registration available now.  And if you want to swap ideas with other specialist media businesses, join the 800+ members of the Specialist Media Network on Linked In.  Request to join here.