Guest Column: These Are the Best of Times (Really)
These are the best of times. They should be, anyway. Never before have we been able to go beyond our roles as editors, circulation managers, sales representatives or publishers in the way we are able to today.
I’ve read all of the doom and gloom about our industry and the bloggers’ bogus opinions about how the industry is disappearing before our eyes. Maybe they’re talking about magazine publishers (read: dinosaurs). I work in the media industry and publish business-to-business magazines as one aspect of the business, and I tell you now: It is the best of times.
Today, a content manager (was: editor) can send out an e-newsletter and, within hours, view open rates, track Web site-traffic spikes and receive immediate feedback on his or her work. Blogs with RSS, and Twitter and Facebook dissemination of the written word produce immediate reactions from our followers˝—from both readers and industry suppliers alike.
These one-time editors have become technology-savvy users connected in near real time with the market. How cool is that? The circulation managers of the 1980s now manage deep, relational databases that tie print readers to digital-edition readers to e-newsletter opens and Web site visits. Today, our circulation managers not only know how big most of our readers’ businesses are, but they know what they want to buy, how their businesses look from a service-mix standpoint, what their growth rate is, and where their branch offices are—and can access all of it in moments. I hope yours can. “Brand reach” is the new term, and it better be independently audited by a credible source.
Sales representatives have evolved to marketers. We can argue about when that happened, and I’m sure some always were marketers. But I can guarantee that if your business is successful, you have sales representatives who think and act like marketers driving your revenue.
Marketers are concerned with clients’ goals, and can design products around them and, most importantly, measure their effectiveness. They know how many impressions will produce a lead, what the true value of an e-newsletter ad is, how long someone read about the clients’ businesses online or how many times their sponsored podcast was heard. A good sales rep/marketer can figure out a client’s share of the market and who is most likely to buy based on the business demographics they received from the database managers. Producing a consolidated lead-generation report with reader-service inquiries, inbound-call activity, Web site and e-newsletter clicks, webinar attendance and digital-edition readership that views clients’ ads—or better yet, clicks through to their Web sites—that’s gold in a marketer’s hand.
The bottom line is that our actions in our daily work and the value we bring to our niche industries has never been so easy to measure. In 1980, our return on investment (ROI) argument was pretty simple. To begin with, we didn’t have digital concerns. Everything was print or face-to-face. And ROI measurement was determined by a Readex survey, bingo cards received in the mail or possibly telephone calls our advertisers received with a mention of “I saw your ad in … .”
Those things still have some value, but that really seems like a lifetime ago. As a publisher in the media industry, ROI has been the holy grail we all have strived to obtain. It’s here—or rather has been here for several years. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about ROI for editors or our advertisers. It’s all measurable, and it’s becoming easier every day—if you’re willing to evolve.
And I love the media industry. Our clients need access to markets to sell products, and our readers need information to educate themselves about market conditions, keep current on legislative issues affecting them, learn about best practices and even understand basic business procedures and products that can make their lives easier. With all the new consumption in the digital realm, we have a myriad of ways to deliver that information with immediacy and track it with our measurement capabilities.
It comes at a price, though. We all walked out of college at some point with degrees in our hands and years of education under our belts, ready to take on the tasks at hand. In many cases, that education means little today—instead, it comes down to your foundation for learning and little more than that.
Accounting doesn’t change, but accounting systems do. Writing and editing don’t change, but your means to publish does. Embracing those changes needs to come from the top down because that’s how examples are set and successful organizations are led. But success also comes from a personal drive to succeed in business and, more importantly, in life.
If each of us doesn’t set aside a few hours every week after work hours, when we’re not being asked to produce, to learn about new technology, then we’re just publishers, and the doom and gloomers will be right/ All of this doesn’t mean we won’t be faced with lots of challenges along the way, like the 1980s interest rates or the current recession. That’s business and life. Embrace it.
Chris Foster is president and COO of GIE Media, a b-to-b publishing company that produces approximately 20 magazines and related products.