Cover Story: The Search for Profitable Publishing
Innovation and Growth: Part of the Culture
With many companies in what could be called "panic mode," it can be tempting to look for fast revenue sources that may not be in the company's or publication's best long-term interest.
"I think sometimes people are looking for an easy way, but revenue diversification is a process. It's not the flavor of the day," says Sabatier. "… If you've got this process in place, you can continue to evolve and filter, but not just for change's sake."
Perhaps this is why Consumer Reports is faring better than most in one of the worst periods in magazine publishing history.
"We routinely develop a strategic plan, and we take a long-term view on that. We just finished one which covers the next several years," says John Sateja, executive vice president, Consumers Union/Consumer Reports. "It looks at what we need to do to grow the business and generate revenue, and then we try to apply that to looking at new ideas. We are always developing new things for our core products, especially on the Web [with traffic of more than 5 million/month to ConsumerReports.org, "slightly ahead of last year"] because that's constant," he says.
He may make it sound simple, but he says, "[The trick is] that you have to have the discipline to focus a percentage of your time on new initiatives."
In addition to Web development, Consumers Union also is "constantly trying to improve our [editorial] coverage," says Sateja.
"Print is not doing well for many, but for us it is," he notes. In August 2006, the organization launched ShopSmart—billed as "Consumer Reports' Quick and Easy Shopping Guide"—as a bimonthly, newsstand-only publication. Less than two years later, paid subscriptions were added, and last year, the frequency increased to 10 times per year.