20 insights for publishers from 2013 PPA conference

The magazine industry seemed less defensive about print and more open to new ways to expand media brands onto web, mobile, events, retailing and more at the PPA annual Conference on 8 May.  These are my top 20 insights from the day.

1.     Publishing and media have strong export potential

Ed Vaizey acknowledged the contribution that publishing and media, alongside other creative industries, make to the UK economy and exports.  UK magazines have been particularly successful in the international digital newsstands, with a 25% share in the US market.  Let’s hope for more government support to drive this export potential.

2.     The challenge is integrating print & digital

While print is still dominant in magazine publishing, the focus now is on balancing print and digital and getting them to work together.  B2B is leading the way in digital revenues, and this is unlocking international sales.

3.     Content must be real time, shareable and multi-platform

Consumers are demanding and expect content to be available on multiple platforms, according to T3 Publishing Director Nial Ferguson.  For T3, 25% revenue is now from digital.  Video is important, with 10m You Tube views, and all content must be updated in real time and shareable by readers.

4.     Digital strategy is borderless

The prize for an aggressive digital publishing strategy is international reach.  Future’s technology brands have a 25m audience worldwide, and 25% of profits are from outside the UK.

5.     Events can fill the experiential gap

With the demise of high street retailers, events can fill the experiential gap.  Future have had great success with sponsored live events in the technology sector.

6.     Industry knowledge fuels move into education

Conde Nast has used its fashion industry knowhow and contacts to set up a fashion college, offering full time and short courses.  Their magazine staff and network provide a real-world edge to their offering to students.

7.     Awards grow global credibility

Restaurant Magazine have developed their “world’s best 50 restaurants” brand from a small awards event to a global programme, with long term sponsors, industry credibility and printed guide spin-offs.

8.     Subscribers have a strategic value

Immediate Media are aggressively growing their subscriber base to over 1.4m, as they see the opportunity to market other products and services to a loyal direct customer base, starting with Radio Times Travel and gardening.

9.     Grow ARPU – think like a retailer

For media owners to succeed in e-commerce, they need to grow average revenue per user/subscriber, and identify who is most likely to make multiple purchases.

10. Data and analytics crucial new skill

In order to target promotional offers, it is crucial to be able to track the profile and previous purchases of customers, so publishers must develop their skills in data and analytics.

11. Editorial content and trust add value to sales

Publishers have an unfair advantage in ecommerce – using their editorial skills and customer trust to promote products and services.  For example, Radio Times Travel have leveraged the interest in Attenborough’s Africa series into safari holidays.

12. Focus on cross-platform workflow

As digital platforms proliferate, the challenge is not just delivering content to each one, it is designing a cross platform workflow that allows content to be easily published, without burning out editorial and design teams, according to James Tye of Dennis.

13. Access to experts is highly valued

Sometimes publishers underestimate the potential of their experts, and the value in low-tech solutions.  Jane’s Defence have discovered that the most highly valued element of their international online subscription package is the ability to join regular topical phone discussions with global defence experts.

14. Be open to the event format audiences want

Event organisers can get stuck into delivering the same conference formats.  Alex Whitson of Haymarket consulted the Nursery World audience before  launching a conference, and instead discovered they wanted a series of DVD videos.

15.  Engage new audiences with video and social media

New media channels can help even traditional publications reach a new audience.  Farmers Weekly used video and social media to engage a new generation of “farm apprentices” and gained a six figure sponsorship, weekly content for their publication and a wider reach.

16.  Twitter is a powerful tool for traditional media

Traditional media can add trust and authority to twitter’s newsfeed, and their own journalists can use it as a powerful promotional tool for both free and paid services, according to Bruce Daisley of Twitter.  It’s a truly symbiotic relationship.

17.  Editors now in a conversation with readers across all platforms

Tim Arthur, editor in chief of Time Out, is now responsible for a continuous conversation with readers across web, social, print and live events, rather than just the production of content.

18.  Free print can drive web traffic

Since Time Out went free in print, its circulation grew from 50k to 300k and this has driven web traffic rapidly to over 6 million, showing the power of print to fuel online engagement.

19.  Publishing teams need T shaped skills

Digital skills gaps are a major issue for media businesses.  Susie O Neill of River suggests the answer is to look for or develop T shaped skill sets, with a broad range of digital competences plus one deep specialism.

20.  Media brands are big brands and can be licensed

As media brands expand beyond print to web, mobile, live events, retail, social they grow into big brands in their own right and can be licensed to other products.

So overall there were a plethora of examples of publishers moving beyond print to engage their audience and use their industry knowledge to expand their brands into new platforms and increasingly expand internationally.  Challenging times, yes, but still quite exhilarating!

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 through her consultancy business Penmaen Media.

If you’re grappling with your digital strategy, do get in touch for a no-obligation discussion.