I’m keeping it simple for the New Year. If you are running a media business and want to set it on a growth path for the next decade, these are seven themes that I believe should shape your 2020 to do list. (in no particular order).
A media brand is the connector and convenor of a specialist interest or a professional or industry community. This puts us in a privileged position, able to create opportunities for our audience to talk, discuss, share and learn from each other. Nurturing this community, online, in print or live, is the first step in encouraging casual, passive readers into becoming engaged contributors and commenters. This leads eventually to a deeper (and more lucrative) relationship.
How well do you really understand the world of your major advertisers and commercial partners from their point of view? Consider taking the time to talk in depth about their marketing objectives and using this insight to develop new services that help them reach your audience in innovative ways. Maybe even set up a regular customer panel or round table.
Are there nuggets of gold hidden in your customer data? Which articles prompt people to subscribe? What do people read before deciding to book an event ticket? Who are the sub-segments of your audience and how does their behaviour vary? What do people read when they have a specific problem to solve? If your current customer data can’t help you answer these questions, you may need to invest some time in enhancing it. If it can, then the path ahead will be much clearer.
Strategy, as I always say to media MDs, is the easy bit. Without creative, energetic, engaged, talented and motivated people in your team, you will never get anything done. I’m a strong believer in diversity when solving difficult problems. If you have a team with different life experiences, industry backgrounds, specialist disciplines, and ways of thinking, they are far more likely to develop an innovative and creative solution and spot the potential pitfalls along the way. And it’s beneficial to have a certain level of turnover – newcomers are more likely to spot the problems than longstanding staff. But to attract this breadth of talent, you will need to treat your staff like customers. Understand what work environment they want and the development they expect, and then ensure that your organisation appeals to them.
When the economic environment is likely to be volatile, businesses need a core of steady, repeatable revenues. If you already have some subscribers, be they individuals or enterprises, make sure you understand what problems they are trying to solve and how your content and services meet their needs. Fine-tuning the mix of editorial, data, events and community will ensure they stay with you and (ideally) invest more in your services. If you don’t yet have any subscribers, then perhaps 2020 is the year you research how to develop a package that meets people’s needs year after year.
Live events focus a community on a hot issue at a specific time and place. Media brands have the power to convene experts, identify trending topics, and assemble a specialist audience. Great events develop a life and energy of their own, moving an industry or a specialist interest forward, urging action, creating new connections and forging commercial relationships. Live events may seem to involve a vast amount of organisation for your beleaguered team. But their reach and influence extend well beyond their attendees, shaping the perception of the media brand for the entire industry or market.
A podcast is such a simple, low-tech piece of content. But increasingly it fits well into busy lifestyles, while commuting, shopping, exercising or travelling. And the simplicity of voice audio allows the listeners’ imagination to expand on ideas. Well executed, regular podcasts strengthen the authority and credibility of your editors and journalists and reinforce the pulling power of your brand to attract interesting interviewees. It may be hard to directly generate significant revenues from a podcast, but they play a major part in building reader engagement and strengthening your media brand.
If you’d like to talk through how you might be able to turn these seven themes into a to-do list for 2020 for your media brand, do get in touch for a chat over the phone or over a coffee.
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.