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Silicon Valley-style pivoting for content publishers

By Alvin Lim


Singapore, Singapore


One of the fashionable new terms in Silicon Valley now is “pivot.” To pivot one’s company implies keeping one foot firmly in place as you shift the other in a new direction. I see this as exploring other revenue and growth options that tap into your current strength.

For instance, Uber is pivoting by venturing into UberEATS and UberPUPPIES, leveraging on its strength in transportation to power other related experimental revenue streams like food delivery and puppy adoption.

Should content publishers be pivoting, too?

Branching out can be a good idea as long as brand integrity is kept intact.
Branching out can be a good idea as long as brand integrity is kept intact.

After all, the decline in print ad sales and other traditional media revenue has been dipping exponentially year on year. Nonetheless, the eyeballs and audience are still huge.

If pivoting is about leveraging on one’s strength, content publishers’ greatest strength has always been its large captive audience as well as the branding as a trusted news source. The latter is particularly important now with the prevalence of fake news online.

I determine the authenticity and trustworthiness of a news article based on what content publisher I read it from. This is where the traditional news media company has an advantage, with its branding built up over decades or even centuries.

There is a reason why tech companies like Amazon and Alibaba are buying out traditional news media companies like The Washington Post and the South China Morning Post, respectively. It has to make business sense in the long run. Imagine if you can marry news articles with online shopping. The revenue potential is huge.

In Singapore, Singapore Press Holdings has an online Straits Times shop selling T-shirts featuring the iconic front page of its flagship newspaper, the Straits Times; newspaper subscriptions; books; and other related products.

This is a form of pivoting, too — exploring an alternative revenue stream while the focus is still strongly rooted in news production.

There are many other possibilities for content publishers to pivot, however, a delicate balance needs to be established so as not to affect the brand and reputation of the newspaper itself because brand value is priceless.

The relationship between a news reader and a news publisher is a special trust, which, once betrayed, will never be the same again. Tech companies do not position themselves as the “purveyor of truths” or the “fourth estate of the state.” Media companies deal with information that can change lives — like impact a national election, for instance.

With this delicate balance, it will be interesting to observe what other innovative forms of pivoting news media companies will adopt in this changing media landscape. NYTKitties or WSJHamsters anyone?

About Alvin Lim

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