Wanted: publishers with vision

I’ve worked with publishers most of my professional life, and seen all kinds. Usually, they are great leaders who have a vision for their brand, and are good at executing that vision. In the good old days, that was enough. A clearly defined goal, and a method of achieving it. If you have a good grasp of both, and can easily follow through – you will succeed. Somehow, the digital transformation and rise of social media has managed to screw up both concepts. More and more I see publishers who have either lost their vision (in the constant chase after shiny new revenue streams and audiences), or lost their ability to execute properly (constantly evolving technology and poor technology education are largely responsible for this).

Just how easy is it to lose vision in publishing world? Let’s illustrate: do you think as yourself as both a publisher and a platform? A ‘platisher’? That concept didn’t make sense 5 years ago when it was introduced, and it still doesn’t make any sense today. It’s a nonsense concept, why is it still being used? And more importantly, are you still hounded by it?

Do you think you are both local and global – ‘glocal’? Yeah, that is a nonsense concept as well. Those two scopes are diametrically opposed, so please stop trying to do both. Seriously, just stop it.

Are you ‘android-only’, ‘mobile-first’, ‘post-social’? None of these should impact your vision. These are only devices or platforms – they can steer or even dictate your execution, but in no way they should impact your vision.

All kidding (and industry lingo) aside, there have been a lot of technology distractions, and many of them have succeeded at knocking publishers off their tracks. If you don’t have a vision today, I don’t think I can help you. You will want to be one thing in this quarter, and another thing in the next quarter, and as tempting as it is to ride that roller coaster with you – we’re just going to try to catch up to whatever you (as a publisher) think you are now. I can’t help you if you cannot stick to a single, defined vision. Plenty of other ‘consultants’ will gladly take your money and deliver zero value to you. Rebrand, refresh, color scheme changes – we all know those ‘consultants’, and the use of quote is intentional.

But if you have a vision (even if it’s different from 5 years ago), and you’re willing to stick to it, and just need help in execution, we should definitely chat about how I can be of use.

The more I work with publishers as a consultant, the more I see one common thread. As their ROI shrinks, and ad/circ rates go down, the instinct is to re-position, re-brand, or re-vamp. That’s costly, involves metrics people do not understand, and involves old habits people do not easily change. And so relaunch after relaunch – publishers still don’t hit their targets. Why? Because they keep changing the vision, without focusing enough efforts on execution (and measurement).

This is where I can help. How did you acquire users 5 years ago vs. 5 months ago? How did you renew subscribers 5 years ago vs. 5 months ago? How much did that cost 5 years ago vs. 5 months ago? These are not questions related to vision. These are all about execution, about methods. Technology education. Workflow management. Team management. Ad operations. Production. Not sexy terms, but if you approach operations diligently, you will execute much better. Essentially, your operations need some TLC.

I realize it’s not as appealing to tweak your content production and distribution as say, re-design the magazine/website logo. But, shocking as it may sound, in my experience, improving your content flow, speeding up the website, fixing your broken links, syndicating your content to more portals, reducing your content production – will get you a lot more exposure, reader engagement, and value – than a logo change, followed by a self-congratulatory tweet or press release.

So please, focus on your execution, measure it, and keep improving technology/workflows rather than planning the next logo revamp or color change. I can show you how your can run your brands better, and how to get better ROI with fewer distraction from your vision.

Curious? Send me a note, and tell me where you’re bottlenecking.