Olympic lessons for specialist publishers

London 2012 has been a truly inspiring couple of weeks, with the spotlight shining on many niche sports that usually get little publicity.  Of course the BBC coverage was heavily weighted to the sports where Brits had medal hopes, but there must be plenty of new spectators now more knowledgeable about hockey, rowing, cycling, sailing, dressage and diving, as well as athletics.  A great boost for publishers in these sectors, but what are the Olympic lessons for all niche publishers?  Here’s my take – and apologies in advance for the UK-centric viewpoint:

1. Hard graft produces results

The final competition is just the tip of the iceberg.  Successful athletes make winning on the day look easy, but delve into their stories and you’ll discover a punishing schedule of training and preparation, from the cycling team’s early starts to Mo Farah’s midnight training sessions.  These high performing teams leave nothing to chance, tuning equipment, tweaking nutrition, developing training programmes and minutely analysing the competition.  So publishers planning a new product or entering a new channel have to do their homework and test out all the options.

2. Embrace diversity

The US topped the medal table and team GB exceeded their best ever Olympics performance.  No real coincidence, in my opinion, that these two nations are the most accepting of immigrants from a range of countries and their teams reflected that ethnic diversity.  Plus these were the games when women athletes were in the spotlight, competing across more disciplines than ever before.  So publishers need to ensure their teams – and their editorial content – include a wide range of backgrounds and experience, gaining strength from diversity.

3. Be confident and lead from the front

In distance running and cycling, it’s tempting to stay in the comfort of the pack and not strike out in front for fear of attracting too much attention from competitors.  In theory you can accelerate ahead and catch up later, but what if you have left it too late?  If you have done the hard graft and are confident in your ability, why not lead from the front?  One of the abiding images of the athletics for me was David Rudisha, sprinting ahead of the pack from the off, winning gold in the 800m and setting a world record to boot.

4. Never give up

One of my 2012 heroines is Kate Walsh, captain of the GB women’s hockey team.  Her jaw was broken early in the competition, and she had to have surgery, but she played on, encouraging her team to fight for a medal.  They lost out in their campaign to get to the final, but then picked themselves up and clawed their way to a bronze.  There are many other stories of athletes who just kept on going and surprised themselves.  The lesson for publishers is clear – there will be many setbacks in any new venture, but by keeping the faith and motivating your team, you have the chance to win in the end.

5. The universal language

At the closing ceremony I was struck by two things:  the set with its literary quotes in the style of newspapers, and the fact that the young medal winners from so many different nations knew the lyrics to hit songs from the Beatles to Oasis, Monty Python to Queen.  UK publishers have an unfair advantage with the English language, probably Britain’s greatest export.  So they must use it, along with the ease of digital distribution, to reach an international audience for their specialist content.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan works with niche publishers to develop practical digital strategies.  She regularly speaks and writes on digital publishing strategy, programmes the Specialist Media Conference and moderates the Specialist Media Network on LinkedIn, where over 1000 niche publishers swap ideas and network.  If you’d like a no obligation discussion about your digital publishing strategy, please get in touch.