Andrew Davis: “It’s Time to Unbundle Our Brands”
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.
We live in a world drowning in information. An age where the amount of information created every single day far outpaces our ability to consume it. Which means, as content consumers, we have to make choices. Hard choices.
As publishers, information overload presents us with tremendous new opportunities to leverage the power of a subscription. Instead of chasing the social stream, it's time we focused on being a consistent part of the information people want to consume. It's time we asked our audience to subscribe to one content brand at a time, instead of our entire brand. It's time we leveraged our talented content creators to make an appointment with their audience.
In the early 1980's, NBC was the lowest rated broadcast television network until they hired Brandon Tartikoff, who, at age 31, was the youngest person to ever head their entertainment division. Tartikoff decided that instead of trying to win every single night in the television ratings game he'd just try and win one night. His goal was to get households around the country tuning into NBC's Thursday night lineup.
The result of his efforts included three of the most successful sitcoms in television history: The Cosby Show, Family Ties, and Cheers. These three shows alone propelled NBC to the number one-rated television network by the end of the decade and gave birth to NBC's "Must See TV." Brandon took advantage of a tried and true concept of television programming success: "appointment television."
Appointment television is based on the concept that people will set aside a specific time and day to watch a program they've built a relationship with. Tartikoff knew that if he could get enough people to set aside 8:00 p.m. on Thursday nights to watch The Cosby Show, he could leverage the show's appeal to keep his viewers watching the same network for the next show.
While DVRs have allowed consumers to time-shift their content consumption, and internet video viewing websites like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon are making appointment television irrelevant, marketers can leverage the basic idea of appointment television to build their own audiences. Think of it as appointment consumption.
Over the next decade, more publishers will embrace the simple idea that one writer, with a consistent format, can set an expectation to deliver high-quality content to a valuable audience by making an appointment. Nothing has fueled consumer culture more than the content brands we love and it's high time we unbundled our brands and created content-level brands that drive revenue. So ask yourself, "If your magazine was a television network, what television shows would you create?"
Andrew Davis is the author of Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships.
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