Editor's Note: The Separation of Church and Pews
In mid May, Time Inc. announced the promotion of Brendan Ripp, former vice president of sales, to publisher of Time. But the real news to me was that part of this transition was Time's "formal integration of print and digital ad sales."
According to a memo that Mark Ford, president and group publisher, sent to Time staff, reported on MediaBistro.com: "… In addition to his current responsibilities overseeing ad sales for Time magazine, Brendan will add digital ad sales for Time.com and Life.com to his portfolio. Building on the successes of the recent iPad app launch and the debut of Time's Health Check-Up franchise, the formal integration of print and digital ad sales will help our combined sales force respond faster and better to the changing print, digital, mobile and event needs of our clients. …"
In April, MediaWeek reported that "Newsweek is formalizing integration of its print and online editorial operations, expanding Mark Miller's editorial director role to include oversight for digital content." Well, who the heck was overseeing the publication's digital content before?
I find it hard to believe that so many companies—I know others of all sizes, though the larger ones seem more prone to this "separation syndrome"—have been carving a line between their print and digital products/staffs, especially well-respected, iconic brands like Time and Newsweek. (Maybe that's one of the reasons Newsweek is for sale, though there seem to be several.)
It's probably because I'm an editor that I think drawing this line editorially is even worse than drawing it on the sales side; but frankly, both bewilder me.
Editors have been referred to as brand stewards for good reason; if you don't carefully oversee your digital products with the same editorial direction and standards with which you built your brand, you risk (a very high risk at that) hurting your brand—in all media.
This is the very reason that when I took over as editor of Publishing Executive and Book Business magazines I brought the Publishing Business Conference in-house. (The conference program had previously been outsourced to a freelance planner.) The conference content needed to be in line with and meet the editorial quality standards of the print products. Hence, the editorial staff should oversee it. The impact was immediate and extremely positive. That may sound boastful, but I'm not saying I'm brilliant, just that I used common sense.
Our sales team sells our print and digital products, and our events (live and virtual). Unfortunately, not all companies see the benefits in this. Many companies are flat-out leaving big money on the table, because they have a separate digital "team," with few, if any, people dedicated to digital sales (they're often focused on development in new platforms; but selling?), and/or the print sales team has no financial incentive to sell digital ad space. Some print publications have millions of dollars in print advertising and awesome, valuable websites with major traffic (also in or near the millions), and the Web ad revenue has yet to exceed $100,000. This is just inconceivable to me.
Especially considering the demand among marketers for multiplatform campaigns, integrating your print and digital brands' sales staff is essential today, and is going to become even more so as products expand further into the mobile space.
I understand that certain people within every company will be the tech leaders, investigating and recommending new technologies to move the publication/company forward (hopefully) into the modern marketplace, but the editors and sales teams still should be behind what is developed for and sold on those new technologies. If your print and digital teams are separate, I'd give this some serious thought.
Today's publishing world is not the one we knew yesterday, and, as I believe our columnist/philosopher Bob Sacks has said, it is not the one we will know tomorrow. Integration and brand integrity are key not only to offset lost print ad revenue, but to becoming brands that have many strong roots and will survive into and beyond the iPad, iPhone, e-reader era.