The value of content and the value of courage


As a member of the Dow Jones leadership team responsible for creating and satisfying customer demand for quality news and information across our different franchises, including The Wall Street Journal, I think a lot about the value of content. Those of us involved in the marketing of news media can agree that this is a daunting task — but something we eagerly tackle each day.

What is the underpinning of success in this enterprise? One answer is … courage.

This realization came to me during a Saturday morning conversation with my 11-year-old daughter about the speech she will deliver standing at the Bimah in front of our Temple congregation at her Bat Mitzvah. The purpose of the speech is to describe the personal relevance she finds in her reading from a section of the Torah. My daughter's Torah portion is from the book of Numbers, the story of the Jews coming out of Egypt and heading into Israel. The connection she would make between herself and an overwhelmed, exhausted band of ex-slaves, if any at all, intrigued me.

The connection she made was that she, and they, didn't like change. She, and they, were not fearless in the face of change. She, and they — and I suggest, we — need to be more courageous as we face a world of unpredictability and flux.

Below is my check list of how to be more courageous, and successful, as we seek to correctly value quality content — particularly in the eyes of our readers:

  • Have confidence in the fact that readers do ascribe value to the content they seek. The more our marketing sets that content apart, establishes it as unique and not a commodity, the more it increases readers' willingness to pay for access — print or digital.
  • Spend less time worrying about cannibalization and more time thinking about the inter-play of platforms throughout a reader's day. There won't likely be a single digital platform that makes up for print “in its heyday.” If managed properly, though, readers will purchase content across a portfolio of platforms that may more than compensate.
  • Move with speed and thoughtful action in leading the competition, and your organization, with in-market price and product bundle testing. Spend less time anticipating market reaction and more time testing and evaluating performance. Make decisions based on data, not fear.
  • Demand technological support and be confident in its return with gated investments based on results. Build for flexibility so that the subscriber revenue and commerce model can adjust with the market.
  • Leverage digital assets already in place to harvest subscriber revenue. Use free traffic as highly qualified leads — typically your best cost-per-order. Review all digital content and identify ways to better monetize through subscriber growth.
  • Find the balance and respect within your organization between the Wild West of the digital world and the disciplined direct marketing of the print world. When you integrate the best of both approaches, people within your organization will be able to move more confidently, more quickly, with greater rigor and better results.

Change and courage aren't new challenges for any of us, personally or professionally. Many times it's not the elimination of those demons that unveils opportunities, but it's the ability to outsmart them with tools, techniques and tricks for managing the risk.

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