ALM’s VP of Digital David Saabye on the Importance of Simplicity
Publishing Executive asked industry thought leaders to discuss the big ideas that are changing the magazine industry. We are excited about the future of publishing, and we hope these essays invigorate you with new and illuminating perspectives on that future. View the complete essay collection here.
Sometimes it's the little ideas that make a big difference.
Magazine publishers have focused on many "big" ideas in recent decades, which have manifested in such projects as News Corp.'s The Daily iPad app and the CueCat (my personal favorite). However, opportunity is often found not in grand explorations (and large investments), but in the little idea that provides clarity and purpose.
For magazines to succeed in an information-overloaded world, they need to become extremely simple. This means simplicity in focus: on a specific topic, point of view, or unique angle. This also means simplicity in communicating information: the way in which a story is told and delivered.
Robust, general interest publishing is an increasingly challenging proposition. Casting a wide net-news, sports, business, and classified sections-to offer a little something for everyone, is not the answer.
Nor will magazine publishing salvation come in the form of a technical silver bullet. Magazine publishers should not strive to become the next Flipboard or Pinterest. What makes their titles valuable is their content, not the consumption format.
Simplicity means that a publication should focus on what makes it distinct-its unique perspective or style. It should double-down on being an expert or authority. Developing layers of knowledge, observations, insight, analysis, and reporting on a unique topic generates value and distinguishes the title from competitors. Simplicity is about digging deep and owning a single space.
And yet simplicity is more than this; it's about effectively communicating this focus. Communication is the act of conveying information through the exchange of ideas. In this case, it's about how a publisher can affect the discovery and presentation of their magazine.
In the connected world, search via a web browser or app has become the remote control for discovery. It takes a simple, organized presentation to win with search.
Once the magazine has been discovered, simplicity will enhance the consumption of its information. Websites devoted to easily reading and viewing information, free of distraction and clutter, improve communication. Forget the unrelated sports, classifieds, and comics. Top, latest, most shared? Pick one.
A simple presentation with few distractions makes it easier to communicate the topic at hand, which demonstrates the value of that magazine to its reader. This holds true for all digital platforms: websites, apps, email, and whatever comes next.
These principles of simplicity: simplicity of focus and simplicity of communication, will steer publishers straight, and will stand fast in 2015 and beyond.
David Saabye is the Vice President of Digital at ALM.
Related story: Andrew Davis: “It’s Time to Unbundle Our Brands”