To Evolve, 'Think as if You Didn't Have an Existing Print or Event Business'
The phrase "print dollars and digital dimes" is all too familiar to most of us in publishing. It represents one of today's biggest challenges: How to offset print ad revenue declines and often subscription revenue with digital revenue. Eric Shanfelt, president and founder of e-media consultancy eMedia Strategist Inc. and a columnist for Publishing Executive magazine, has some words of wisdom on the subject: Know your market, think like a start-up, and choose your strategies carefully.
Shanfelt will be moderating a session called "Converting Digital Dimes to Dollars: How to Rev Up Your Revenue" at the free Publishing Business Virtual Conference & Expo, Sept. 16. Here, he shares with Publishing Business Insider his insights into this seemingly insurmountable challenge … and more.
Insider: What do you see as the primary challenge magazine publishers are having in monetizing digital products?
Eric Shanfelt: … Selecting the right digital strategy that matches the needs of their market and the publisher's existing business strengths. Many publishers are just trying to do something online because they feel they need to rather than sitting back, selectively choosing what to do and committing to it.
The next challenges are changing the corporate culture to aggressively go after the core digital strategy, committing the resources to make it happen while still running the existing business, and avoiding "shiny object syndrome" which can sidetrack the core strategy.
Insider: From your experience, how can publishers evaluate what digital opportunities would provide for maximum return on investment (ROI), and which are more hype and present larger risk with lower returns?
Shanfelt: First, you need to know your market. Who are your readers, and what do they really want? Who are your advertisers, and what do they really want?
Next, you need to think as if you didn't have an existing print or event business. If you were an online startup, with the added bonus of having all of the assets that your publishing business has, how would you build a business online?
Finally, you need to understand what online strategies really bring in the money and which are just hype. For example, most publishers today simply won't benefit that much from an iPhone/iPad application. But if they could really get their act together to develop a website that attracted the right audience, was well-optimized for search, and encouraged people to register to grow their e-mail database, they could start building an incredible online revenue stream.
I think we, as publishers, often get caught up in the "next big thing" when we don't even have the fundamentals down. To use a football analogy, there's no way we can run a fancy trick play when we can't even block and tackle.
Insider: What do you think attendees to your session will benefit from most?
Shanfelt: We have amazing panelists who bring a track record of success online and three different ways how they got there. Each discovered the key of matching the right online strategy for their specific market.
Ron Wall with Canon Communications brings the b-to-b perspective with an emphasis on lead-generation and database marketing. Chad Phelps with F+W brings the consumer enthusiast perspective with an emphasis on creating paid content products and using online as a direct marketing channel to sell online and offline products. And Breda O'Reilly with The Atlantic brings a more mass-consumer/intelligentsia perspective with an emphasis on creating custom marketing programs instead of just selling advertising.
While there will be a lot of concrete ideas presented, that's not the real point of the session. My hope is that the audience will really get the vision of how to select their strategy based upon what their market really needs.