E-Media Strategist: No Silver Bullet for Online Success
Magazine publishers are still looking for that magic formula to really boost online revenue. What new strategy or technology will help us make up for what we’ve been losing in print? A couple of years ago, it was vertical search and online events that were hailed as the “next big thing.” Now it’s mobile devices and online video. Tomorrow it will be something else. Sorry to break it to you, but there is no silver bullet when it comes to online media.
Time and again, I see publishers wondering which new online technology will give them something tantalizing to dangle in front of their readers and advertisers. They see or read about something another media company is doing, or get a call from a vendor with the next big thing that will bring in revenue and save their businesses. They’re desperate to throw something—anything—against the wall with the hope that it sticks and gives them an edge over their competition. Thus, they constantly distract themselves and never make any real progress.
There really is no secret to developing a robust online media business. The key is simply to stick to sound publishing fundamentals and execute them better than your competition—same as it’s always been. When publishers pursue every new technology or trend in online media, they fragment their efforts and wind up failing to execute any of them well enough to dominate that niche in the market. There’s nothing wrong with looking at new technologies and what others are doing online; we need to be aware of what the possibilities are. But don’t let these things consume your time and energy, and above all, don’t let them shape your strategy!
Slow down, take a deep breath, ignore the trends and instead, focus on your fundamental mission as a publisher. What do your readers really need? What do your advertisers really need? What is your unique advantage that you can capitalize on? And what business model brings it all together in a profitable way? Only then should you search out the technologies needed to make your strategy work. If video is critical, then use it. If your readers use mobile devices instead of standard computers, then develop mobile solutions. But be honest with yourself, and don’t get caught up in “shiny object syndrome.” For example, e-mail is so passé these days, but it is still one of the most effective revenue-generating tools for any publisher. Do you have a really good e-mail strategy in place? No? Then forget about trying to execute a good video or mobile strategy.
Of course, any strategy or technology is only as good as our ability to execute it successfully—not just in development, but in content creation, production, promotion and sales. Here, again, is where we can become distracted. As you develop your online business and execute your strategy, you will be bombarded with new ideas, new trends and new examples of what other publishers are doing. Don’t let yourself become distracted here either. Focus on executing your fundamental business better than anyone else, and ignore 90 percent of everything else that comes your way.
I realize this advice runs counter to the “gotta try it first and be there first” mentality that seems to dominate our industry these days, but a simple online strategy with solid focus and execution will always be better for your business than being constantly distracted with the latest trends and technology.
Eric Shanfelt is president and founder of eMedia Strategist Inc., an e-media consultancy. He previously served as executive vice president of eMedia for Aspire Media and senior vice president of eMedia for Penton Media. Shanfelt’s extensive e-media background spans 17 years, and he specializes in practical, revenue-generating strategies for publishers. Visit his blog at www.eMediaStrategist.com.