It’s been a busy week following the release of our kmIMPACT™ solution, blog post from our great client, Ronda Hughes from Advanstar and attending CircDayLA. While at the event, I’ve come to realize there is a real separation that is apparent among publishers along the traditional ‘bell curve of adoption,’ which I believe is common among all new technologies.
Listening to the conversations and presentations during the event, I would suggest that 20% of the publishers could have been classified as early adopters of the digital transition, 60 % in the mainstream of making the transition and 20% focusing on how they can survive while hanging on to the old model. For each category I just described, here are the characteristics I would articulate.
20% Early Adopters/Innovators: Those who were leaders in the transition to new technologies recognized in advance there was a seismic shift occurring in the industry brought on by numerous factors. Transitioning from a ‘print/ad centric’ business model to a ‘digital data and services centric’ company was imperative to holding on to their competitive edge. While it doesn’t matter all that much whether these companies acted from an opportunistic or fatalistic perspective, the main point is it created a sense of urgency for them to reinvent their operations at the core.
These early adopters implemented the technologies (i.e. a single consolidated audience database), transitioned their content (i.e. print only to print/digital mix), embraced all the new media channels (i.e. social, YouTube) and implemented organizational change (i.e. marketing services, new sales strategies). This new infrastructure allowed them to effectively thrive in the new ‘digital’ economy and drive incremental revenue sources through new concepts such as marketing services. Among our client base, folks like Advanstar, UBM Canon and Watt are clear examples of the positive impact that comes from an early adopter strategy.
60% Mainstream to Making the Transition: The largest group encompasses companies that have begun to dabble in some aspects of the transition from print to digital, but have yet to make the complete transition. Those in this group have felt the industry trends impacting their business and are looking for quick changes to ensure that they don’t experience significant damage to their overall business results. Unfortunately, the changes companies in this category are making are ‘cosmetic’ rather than ‘structural.’ They are looking at solving their problems for today rather than looking at implementations that will allow them to thrive for years to come. Here are some concrete examples I heard from individuals at the event:
- One publisher built a consensus audience database, however, it only gets updated quarterly and is only accessible by requesting it from a database analyst
- One publisher implemented a new email solution, but fails to integrate the valuable behavioral information with all the other aspects of their audience database
- A niche publisher with a significant print title developed an integrated audience database, but spent significant internal resources on circulation fulfillment and has a disconnected email solution
- One publisher created a robust, multi-channel audience database, however, their sales people continue to sell print-centric advertising space rather than attributes from the integrated audience
- One publisher was gloating about their incredible content, but didn’t know how to target the best audience members nor the proper channel to do so
Overall, rather than implementing the core technical building blocks and providing cross company training and support, the companies in this category chased the latest ‘bell and whistle’ of functionality available in market. Unfortunately, this approach this will lead to higher operational costs, disconnected organization and an inability to optimize the value of their overall audience and content assets.
20% Laggards: In today’s world you generally have less companies and individuals stuck in the past, hanging on to old strategies. Fortunately, I found this to be true at the CircDayLA event. However, as mentioned in the previous category, there are certain parts of organizations that are not adept or interested in moving forward. Traditional circulation people are being tasked with learning more marketing skills and are extremely resistant to the change. Similarly, successful advertising sales people with long standing relationships are reluctant to change their ‘comfortable’ sales approach from being ad centric to data/services centric. Ultimately, the pace of change overwhelms the individuals and organizations in this category; they will either adopt or become obsolete.
While the transition this industry is facing may be intimidating, I am pleased to see that the majority of people have begun to realize this shift is here to stay and proactive measures need to be taken in order for companies to remain competitive. Hopefully sooner rather than later, we will see an increase in the first category of early adopters/innovators!
These events are great opportunities for us to learn what issues publishers are facing in the marketplace and how we can continue to refine our message and solution to meet their needs. We’re off to ABM Executive Forum and Folio MediaNEXT in the coming weeks. We hope to see you there!