Revisiting Mequoda’s Multiplatform Media Strategy
A few days ago I learned that Mequoda's Don Nicolas put me second on his list of people to follow in our industry, ensconced in glory between Bo Sacks and Mr. Magazine.
The Mequoda Group consults for publishers in the areas of content marketing, multiplatform product development, and strategic revenue optimization. Their business model, a robust combination of free and paid content, supplemented by workshops and publishing summits, is in itself a case study of the so-called "Mequoda Method," which Don defined and pioneered.
Don himself is a longtime industry luminary, which is why his tip of the hat pleased me to no end. With John Klingel, at their company Lighthouse Communications, he developed our industry's first publishing model, to which every publishing model today can trace some aspect of their lineage.
And does anyone reading this blog remember Plants Alive? A number of years ago (give or take a decade or two) Plants Alive was the moribund (if imaginary) publication that Don challenged participants in his circulation intensive to save, by hook or by crook. It was at one of these intensives that I met Don; and within a few years I was working with him on his seminars and workshops, leading the newsstand portion, and learning every time I listened to Don.
When, in the 1990's, many of us were learning html and setting up our first websites, Don was the first of us to re-orient his entire business to online. In those days publishers were floundering with the challenges of creating an effective online presence. Many of the questions that were raised back then are still being asked today: are the content people, or the marketing people, or the tech people to lead the way? What do you do with site visitors when they arrive? How do advertising, partnerships, affiliations, and SEO fit into the plan? What is to be free and what is to be paid? And how do you make your money?
While we as an industry have become more sophisticated, many of those questions are still relevant. And now, as then, some of the best answers are being provided by Don and his Mequoda Method.
Don's genius is to take a very complicated field and create a coherent sequence to bring it under control and make it effective and profitable. He advises publishers to create an online hub as the basis of their brands. Print, TV, podcasts, video, and other media used by the brand radiate out from that hub like spokes on a wheel. From this central hub, the media brand builds out content, from free to paid, through all media channels. And in this way, he picks up the threads of the various media platforms, from the point they converge online, and weaves them together through the optimization of the brand's content. He does this through offering free tips in a daily newsletter, through using more articulated versions of the content in downloadable webinars and white papers, to live events which explore the same content at its most complete and profound levels.
Under the Mequoda Method, content is built from simple to complex. Minimum Information Units (MIUs), those simplest bits of content that the publisher offers, are used as the most basic building blocks in this process. So a cooking brand, for example, might start with concept and content, and build out, spoke by spoke: free recipes, paid circulation magazine, branded TV show, cooking demos available by video and podcast, cookbooks, live events. The smallest units are given for free to build audience; and that audience is converted into customers who purchase the content that is sold higher up the sales pyramid.
It's an elegant system, and one that provides a key for deciphering the complex codes of multiplatform publishing. The simplest elements, provided for free, bring in audience; the more content-rich elements are sold in stages up the sales pyramid, each narrowing stage bringing in fewer customers, but more revenue per unit sold. Thus, the various elements of multiplatform publishing fit like puzzle pieces into a single structure, the publishing brand hub. The hub gives structure and coherence to the whole, and the spokes bring in audience and revenues as content is used and re-used for the benefit of the publisher and the audience alike.
Linda Ruth, as president of PSCS Consulting (www.PSCSConsulting.com), offers communication companies worldwide the keys to magazine launches, search engine optimization and audience development online and at retail. She is a pioneer in the fields of Online Audience Optimization (OAO) and gamification for content publishers. Her books, "Internet Marketing for Magazine Publishers" ; "How to Market your Newsstand Magazine"; and "Secrets of SEO for Publishers" can be found on Amazon. Find her online at Google Plus, Magazine Dojo, LinkedIn, and Twitter @Linda_Ruth.