Lessons from INMA World Congress: No revenue diversification without risk


If there was one thing I picked up from the invigorating and refreshingly honest INMA World Congress conference a few weeks ago, it was that with great diversification efforts comes great risk.

To expect one without the other is unrealistic.

I say refreshingly honest because a lot of industry conferences I’ve been to in recent years try to hide all the bad stuff behind a bunch of shiny new toys. But I think the speakers and topics and side hall conversations at World Congress encapsulated a very real challenge we all face in remaking ourselves.

Yes, a lot of media companies are exploring new tactics, creating new companies or departments, and/or partnering with new vendors to create exciting new ventures. And many of them are already paying off.

But there is quick acknowledgement, too, of our ongoing culture challenges and the need to push our existing staff up or out as the needs of our readers and advertisers change.

Discussion of native advertising and sponsored sections pushes boundaries, for sure. But the greater risk there might be being too cautious to create this outlet.

Test now. Experiment now. See what works and plow ahead.

As long as transparency in authorship is clear, this approach should provide a new revenue stream and open doors to more creativity to get us to move beyond the banner.

The move to grow a more engaged audience and diversify your content by utilising outside contributors, as Forbes.com is doing, certainly carries risks, including the credibility of the brand.

But this approach also offers several benefits that make it seem worthwhile, not the least of which is creating a deeper sense of community by adding, quite literally, more topical voices to your Web site.

Certainly the growth of digital marketing services ventures carries with it much risk, in terms of the investment of people, money, brand equity, or all three. Much like the discussion of paid digital access these days, this topic seems more like a matter of when and how than if.

The debate will go on in terms of proper marketing services structure (in-house team or outsourced partner), but much of that debate resides on the premise of relationship control. In either set-up, it’s possible to maintain that level of client control with good sales management. I subscribe to the theory that the hand that rocks the digital marketing cradle …

Approaches to video seem a bit riskier, simply because properly establishing the infrastructure for getting yourself in the video-creation game seems daunting. Streaming video-enabled reporters; home grown Web TV shows; on-demand highlight recaps; aggregated national features; customised local video ads – the list goes on and on.

Again, though, it seems the risk of not entering into this arena is greater than the expense and tall task of becoming experts quickly. (And, let’s face it, our readers expect it of any new venture we initiate, and let’s be thankful our brands are still so strong we can create that expectation.)

So I left the INMA World Congress feeling cautiously optimistic, nervously excited, and, for some reason, with a hankering to place a bet.

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