Since I left Digital First Media in the third quarter of 2012, I have had the pleasure of working with a number of media companies in a consultative role, helping them define their go-forward strategy. It has been a very positive, eye-opening experience for me.

I plan on using those lessons learned to help organisations of all sizes in my new role as vice president of interactive services for Affinity Express.

That being said, here are some thoughts to consider as you prepare yourself for 2013 and beyond:

  1. The economics of the business are in a constant state of transition. The classified business has retracted to become a small minority of revenue for publishers, and the future of legals and pre-prints are in question now.
  2. Publishers have to be ready to adapt their business to what their audience and advertisers want. I am in no way suggesting print will disappear, as I do not think that will be the case. But it will be a different business. I fear those who are unwilling to adapt may not survive.

  3. There are a number of companies taking very innovative steps and trying new things. That is the best, most practical approach; if any one company had figured it out, everyone else would be copying the model.

    Seek out these innovators and find out what they are doing and how they are doing it.

  4. At the core or your strategy, you have to sell advertisers things they want to buy.

    I believe those publishers that are constantly feeding the sales organisation new products and platforms, and are willing to find success through experimentation with a fail-fast mentality, will be the most successful.

  5. I typically find the smaller the company, the more fluid and dynamic it can be. The digital agency concept is sweeping the publishing business, but few are fully committed to it.

    Companies need to start thinking about what they are today and envision what they will be tomorrow.
    Then build plans accordingly.

    You can’t be everything to everyone nor can you do everything yourself. To quote Jeff Jarvis, “Do what you do best and outsource the rest.”

  6. Small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are dedicating a significant part of their overall expense budgets (not just marketing) to building out dynamic solutions and customer acquisition models online.

    Those publishers offering Web site design and development, coupled with search engine optimisation, pay-per-click, maps, and social solutions are able to get in front of virtually any business.

    And this is what SMBs want to talk about first. You can then layer on additional marketing opportunities across all platforms. But they need this foundation.

  7. The more comprehensive the offerings, the better they are for SMBs when it comes to time, price, and relationship. Spreading money across multiple companies doesn’t allow them to properly leverage their total marketing spend to get the best possible pricing.

    Plus, publishers that can look to offer more than just one or two platforms will find the relationship with the SMBs will be richer and longer-lasting.

  8. Multi-media publishers have the single most important advantage: an established, in-market sales force with existing relationships and a local brand. This above anything else distinguishes them from any pure-play competitor.

  9. You have to think in terms of total audience as opposed to individual segments. The reach of a local publisher is greater than it has ever been when you combine print, online, mobile, and social channels.

    Offering a collective solution with robust targeting capabilities is a huge opportunity.

  10. You need to take action. Stop talking about what you want to do and stop discussing what you can’t do. Focus on what you can and will do.

    Hire specialists to work with the existing sales staff who also will cultivate new business on their own. Remove complacency from the current sales organisation and look to serve the market as a whole.

    Stop constricting yourself by what you don’t know.

  11. You walk a fine line between being aggressive and driving change, and taxing the bandwidth of the local sales organisation.

    I think you can fit only so much on one plate, and it takes time for things to really click. Make sure you have proper support functions in place so salespeople can sell.

  12. You can build the best solution, create the best marketing material, have the best training, and sell the hell out of it. But if you cannot fulfill it, you will fail.

    Be overly prepared to support the sales effort and partner with companies that are strong where you are weak.

I hope, at the very minimum, this sparks conversation within your organisation. You may agree or disagree with the points above, but there should be internal discussion and debate around these topics.

Until next time…