In the Specialist Media Insights research earlier this year, we asked 130 publishers what they saw as their biggest opportunities and challenges. This provides a unique insight into how specialist media owners see the world right now.
Whilst they can glimpse the potential of digital platforms, online interaction, repackaging content and enhanced ad propositions, there is still a fear of new competitors, making the wrong technology choices, and traditional revenues evaporating before digital grows to replace them. Plus a real skills gap especially in sales and technology.
1. Digital publishing fuels global ambition
The lower launch cost and ease of marketing for digital services and mobile apps is broadening the geographical scope of even very small publishers.
“Technology makes it easier to reach a wider audience”
“marketing our digital and app versions worldwide”
“the world is our target market – location is not an issue”
2. Greater engagement with customers through online communities
The immediacy of online communication is enabling a closer relationship with subscribers and readers.
Closer engagement with our consumers offering our content through a number of different platforms, print or digital”
“crowd source content”
“interactivity with subscribers”
3. Enhanced ad propositions with digital, data, lists, communities
Creating high-value, bespoke commercial packages across multiple media is seen as an opportunity to expand revenues
“client solutions packages using multi-platform selling, increase database, list building”
“getting potential advertisers to realise the advantages offered by distribution achieved through social media & offering them bespoke sponsorship opportunities”
“Combining digital audience with print on equal terms to provide an enhanced ad sales offering”
“more bespoke work with clients”
4. Social media and free content to grow brand
Publishers are beginning to see how to use free content and social sharing to find new customers and upsell to paid services
“ownership of strategic search terms through SEO excellence and weight of site”
“using social media to cross-promote subscriptions news services to new potential customers”
“harnessing social media for active sales”
“increasing social media interaction”
5. Repackaging content & data for multiple digital services
Growing realisation that content can be repackaged across different formats as both one-off sales and part of subscriptions – and data can be as valuable as traditional content
“producing more digital books on the back of our magazines”
“repackaging content as reports – focus on quality features”
“one-off PDF article sales”
“Much more monetised content online, growth in online traffic leading to increased ad revenues, sponsored forums etc, growth in digital paid-for subs”
“Visualisation of information, semantic web & natural language processing”
“Developing data and software services for niche automotive market”
But amid all this potential, there are still major challenges…
6. Keeping up with technology & making right decisions
Publishers are struggling to keep abreast of tech developments, and feel that their people, hardware & software aren’t able to take full advantage. And there is a real fear of making the wrong strategic decision.
“Too many different formats and technologies. We do not have the resources to produce digital output to cover them all. It would be very easy to spend a lot of money on developing and enhancing the digital products but can you generate the extra income to recover these costs? What features will readers find valuable, not just an interesting gimmick?”‘
“Lack of technical knowledge to bring on board apps, web apps etc”
“Lack of good technical digital resources/people”
7. Decline in print revenues and high investment in digital
Publishers feel cornered by declining revenues and rising costs in print but big investments required in digital
“Print revenue declines too rapidly before online revenue takes over”
“Applying resources so that online can be developed without harming print because that is still our main source of revenue”
“Resource and set up is high for minimal immediate returns”
8. Advertisers having more alternatives and revenue pressure
Traditional advertising revenues are pressured as clients put more emphasis on their own content & social marketing, and publishers must escape from expectations of low rates on digital. Sales teams also lack the necessary skills.
“Complete collapse of traditional advertising and sponsorship”
“Low digital revenues, less advertising as vendors move to social media and other mechanisms to reach their customer. M&A reducing pool of readers and vendors.”
“Further reduced marketing budgets and customer owned routes to market”
“The current sales team not being able to sell cross platform and cross market”
9. Free content and low entry barriers for competitors
Formerly strong publications are feeling under siege from new competitors and alternative free sources of content.
“Free user generated news on social media”
“Too many other sources of freely available high quality content in the areas that we cover”
“Relatively low barriers to entry into the market, so that many people may feel they could launch against us”
“Free content eroding commercial viability of digital media”
“Low cost start up digital opposition”
Overall, the research shows an industry ready to grasp the digital opportunity, but with real concerns about choosing the right priorities and building teams with the right skills, before the traditional revenues dry up.
About the author: Carolyn Morgan runs the Specialist Media Insights research programme and the annual Specialist Media Conference, building on twenty years of publishing & media experience. Carolyn works with niche publishers to develop a practical digital strategy.
If you’re grappling with your digital strategy, do get in touch for a no-obligation discussion.