Thursday, May 7, 2015

Print Execs: 3 Tips For Making Digital Your New Best Friend

As a print executive, you most likely realize that more and more of your readers are now going to digital platforms for content. Instead of viewing this trend as a threat to print, you should see it as GOOD news. Digital journalism is a promising growth area that will create new business opportunities for an industry that has long been lacking in innovation. As a former magazine journalist currently studying Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University’s Medill School, I have found two articles that can help you begin to build a successful digital journalism business.

In a February 2015 International News Media Association article titled “6 pillars of a revenue-generating business model for digital journalism”, Caio TĂșlio Costa offers some thoughts on how traditional media companies can succeed in the digital landscape by creating a new value chain for consumers. Costa explains the drawbacks of current digital media business strategies, and argues that publications should reinvent themselves and focus on providing content that is valuable to digital natives. 

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The second article by Johanna Vehkoo and Pekka Pekkala, “Across the world, money to support journalism startups comes from a variety of sources”, shows that European media companies may be ahead of their U.S. counterparts when it comes to creating innovative web-based business models. Although there is no consensus on what the “Holy Grail” of digital media revenue strategies looks like, the 2013 Nieman Lab article provides many examples of potentially profitable ideas, from social web storytelling to selling technology — all of which provide new value for digital consumers.

Based on the key takeaways from these two articles and my learning experience as an Integrated Marketing Communications graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School, here are three action items print media executives should consider implementing today.

Become a techie. Today’s hottest new digital technology may suddenly become obsolete tomorrow, so it may not be wise to hedge your bets on any particular platform. Instead, familiarize yourself with tech industry trends, understand how your consumers interact with digital technologies, and be flexible enough to pivot when the next big digital disruption comes to market.

Think beyond advertisers. Advertisers have always accounted for the majority of print media’s total revenue, but digital now gives you opportunities to monetize your content beyond subscribers and ads. Be creative: What other sources of revenue can you capitalize on? Does it reinforce your brand, and do you have the expertise necessary to craft a successful extension?

Content sells. Even though digital provides exciting new opportunities for traditional print media companies, it is important to realize that your business is still centered on producing content for your readers. Start to distinguish yourself as a reputable source of well-written stories by holding your digital content to the same quality standards and editing processes as your print articles.

The print business model has been so successful for so long that it is justifiably difficult for traditional publications to completely let go of it. In order to be truly successful in today’s digital landscape, however, it is not enough to simply transpose the print model online — every strategic decision must be optimized for digital platforms. But most importantly, remember that at the end of the day, your primary job is still to provide readers with high quality content that they cannot find anywhere else.

Ivan Yeh is a master’s candidate studying Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University’s Medill School, specializing in media management and digital marketing. He also holds a B.S. in Journalism from Medill, and has previously written for SELF and Health magazines. Ivan can be reached on LinkedIn and Twitter @iyeh22.

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