What keeps media leaders awake at night? Based on the conversations I have had with clients this year, certain challenges and issues keep coming up. These are the seven top challenges for media businesses based on my conversations with MDs and publishers this year. And some suggestions on how to tackle them.
1. How to build a premium digital product
For B2B media businesses, this is the holy grail, finding a high value information need that they can service with a digital product sold on subscription, ideally to enterprise customers. But few know how to start the process, or what skills they have to bring into their teams to deliver a premium subscription product.
There is no substitute for painstaking research: interviewing users and buyers or convening customer panels to fully understand their information gaps, which are not covered by existing products. Then you need to manage the process of packaging content and developing a compelling digital user experiences, again in collaboration with customers.
2. How to move from free digital content to paid
Most publishers fell into the free online content trap. For B2B media, there used to be plenty of advertising. For consumer media, paranoia about traffic numbers. But now both are experimenting with paid digital subscriptions, and people are becoming more receptive to the idea of having to pay for online content.
It’s not a quick fix, but these articles show that more publishers are succeeding with subscriptions.
3. How to grow revenues from an event portfolio
Most media brands do have an event or two, but there does seem to be more focus now on how to optimise and grow the portfolio, and professionalise the content, marketing and sponsorship sell.
I have seen more publishers setting up dedicated events teams, investing in their database, reinventing the events experience, professionalising their digital marketing, and collaborating more imaginatively with commercial partners.
4. How to prepare a business for sale
Many independent, privately owned media businesses have an eye on an exit in a few years. Getting the best outcome is a marathon, not a sprint.
It pays to spend a few years pruning your portfolio, developing a range of revenue streams, strengthening your customer relationships and looking to international markets, before you even think about approaching possible buyers.
5. How to take a bigger share of commercial clients’ marketing budget
Most us know that marketers are spending more of their budget on content creation, social media and digital marketing, and less on third party media. So as publishers we have to broaden what we offer to our advertising clients to grow our overall commercial revenues.
But this can be hard to put into practice – sales teams need new skills to understand marketers’ objectives, and publishing teams need to add skills in design, commercial content creation, video and social media. And you need to keep a watchful eye on margins, so you don’t divert client budget to less profitable services.
6. How to recruit experienced staff
The media business requires a wider range of skills than it did a decade ago: data journalism, audience analysis, development, commercial design, consultative selling, digital marketing, creating live events, training, consultancy and more… Independent publishers face a challenge attracting new recruits with the right mix of skills and retaining them.
Solving this problem may mean rethinking your entire business environment and working practices, as well as experimenting with new recruitment sources.
7. How to engage casual readers and build loyalty
Free content is still essential to reach out to prospective readers, but how can you learn more about casual followers and readers, and start to build up their loyalty? There are now more tech tools to help you understand and profile your casual readers and use content and services to entice them to spend more time with you and ultimately register.
As a media owner, do these challenges sound familiar to you? You are welcome to get in touch for an informal chat and I will share some ideas that might help you find a solution.
About the author
Carolyn Morgan has bought, sold, launched and grown specialist media businesses across print, digital and live events. A founder of the Specialist Media Show (sold in 2014) she now advises media businesses large and small on their digital strategy through her consultancy Speciall Media.