BoSacks: The Profit Prophet
Last month, I had the pleasure of delivering a lecture at the Publishing Business Conference & Expo with David Renard, my partner at Media-Ideas. Addressing a packed room, we examined the five key issues that will affect our industry over the next decade and provided actionable advice to prepare publishers for that future.
The trigger to these key issues is, simply put, “change.” We are faced with changes unprecedented in history. The “screenagers” have been a digital demographic from birth, growing up after the dawn of cellular (1983) and with the Internet (1993). They are a generation comfortable with immediate interaction and virtual access. This is fostering a new generation of readers, naturally adept with technology and comfortable with virtual access to friends, family and the world at large. It also is fostering a change in reading habits. Pixels are being increasingly accepted as a way of life.
Another element of change is the access to connectivity. Wi-Fi and mobile phones allow people to stay connected to friends, family, work and information immediately, almost anywhere.
We have the ability to deliver information to multiple platforms in an instant, on a global basis and, most importantly, in any format the reader requires.
Key Trend #1: Magazines are not changing, how you read their content is.
What is a magazine? We at Media-Ideas believe that for a magazine to be a magazine, it must be metered, edited and have designed content, as well as be delivered periodically to the reader in a format that is date-stamped and permanent. We accept that a digital magazine with those six attributes is a magazine. We further believe that over the next 15 years, digital magazines will grow to become 30 percent of the magazine market. Within 25 years, they will represent more than 75 percent of the market for periodicals.
Call to Action: Publishers must create a specific road map today toward multiplatform magazine publishing and content distribution.
Keeping the structural integrity of a magazine online, with the six components necessary to be a magazine, will help to protect publishers from the leveling force of content aggregation that exists on the Internet today. This will greatly limit a magazine’s exposure to the content-dilution factor that is increasingly being played out in the realm of information distribution on the Web.
Key Trend #2: Costs are increasing faster than the traditional magazine business model allows.
Raw-material acquirement is causing paper, ink, printing and shipping costs to increase over the long term. These will be further impacted as ecological concerns grow. The lack of attention to ecology is going to be a major cost. Imagine having to pay carbon offsets for each copy returned.
Call to Action: Sky-rocketing costs will force publishers to become more efficient with distribution. The goal has to be 100-percent efficiency or zero returns (and zero returns means a massive reduction in a publisher’s carbon footprint).
Call to Action: Crippling costs will force publishers to offer better-quality, more-targeted print products at even higher price points.
Call to Action: Ballooning costs will force publishers to further espouse digital delivery.
There is little choice. Digital infrastructure is not free, but it is also not burdened with rising paper and other associated analog costs.
Key Trend #3: The control and branding of digital content is a critical battle.
XML, content aggregators and search engines are growing in importance and acceptance. This type of online distribution should principally be considered as a marketing tool to attract new readers. Only the very largest magazine publishers and publishers of addictive niche titles will manage to retain their brand awareness through this information-
distribution model. Digital magazines must become a critical piece of a publisher’s digital content-distribution plans over the next two years. Because they preserve the core characteristics of a printed magazine, they are best equipped to retain reader loyalty in a digital world.
Call to Action: The formula construction of a magazine’s distribution will become a central battle for relevance. If publishers do not take an aggressive stance, outside forces will steer a solution away from the interests of the magazine industry.
Key Trend #4: E-paper is rapidly developing flexible, color displays.
Although the Amazon Kindle is not ready for prime time, it is a prime example of where we are headed. Our Media-Ideas researchers predict that by 2020, e-paper’s worldwide market will be worth more than $20 billion. We further predict that by 2020, the annual global production of e-paper displays will be 500 million units with a unit price of $50. Imagine a piece of paper that is a screen, plasticized at first, but becoming more and more like the pulp we have all grown to love.
Call to Action: If digital magazines have not made sense to you, your readers and advertisers, they will with full-color e-paper. Publishers must be acting on their digital magazine implementation plans today or risk irrelevance.
Key Trend #5: The corporate structure of traditional publishers cannot keep pace with technological changes, causing a misalignment between internal organization and business needs.
In every corner of the publishing organization, employees need a larger skill set—one infused with technology—such as writing a blog, shooting and editing video, and repurposing content. Today’s IT departments are ill-equipped to act upon consumer-imposed requirements. It must fall on the business unit to provide the necessary guidance and forward planning.
Call to Action: Type A publishers need to assign business-technology “visioneers” within each unit of the organization who report directly to a C-level executive.
Call to Action: Visioneers are responsible for planning necessary technology and functionality over five years. Both the business units and the visioneers must be partially compensated on each other’s success.
Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.com). He is also the co-founder of the research company Media-Ideas (Media-Ideas.net), and publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator and almost every other job this industry has to offer.