Could Rodale and Hachette be on to Something?
Magazines have three of the most important elements to any successful publishing effort: content, readers and relationships. Someone in their pajamas, a casualty of the economy, or anyone else trying to replicate the success that a magazine once had or is having, would need a plan on how to address each of these areas as an online pure-play.
A few weeks ago, when Rodale announced it was entering into a content partnership deal with MSN, I started to think that maybe it was time to change my mind.
I'm guessing there are no imminent plans to abandon the Men's Health or Elle websites, but would traditional publishers be better off leaving things like site architecture, design and usability to the people who know it really well and have the resources to get it done?
I know from experience and through stories from people in my shoes at other companies that getting buy-in from top management, editorial, sales, circulation and technology on anything from the layout of site navigation or pay-walls, to the color of links or how many ad units should be on a page, often prevents us from taking advantage of the biggest advantage online has over print: speed.
Maybe the long-term online future of traditional magazine publishers is to continue to produce great content that loyal readers want and to retain the trust advertisers have in making sure their products and services fit that audience, but to leave the rest to someone else.