Great opportunities for publishers
There has never been a better time to be in the content business! All of the friction between content creators and consumers is disappearing, thanks to the incredible power, utility and availability of mobile computing. Since magazines were first created, our great consumer franchises have only been limited by our ability to get a physical product into the hands of our target consumers; this has not been a major problem in developed markets like Germany or the USA (where I am writing this), but even in these sophisticated markets, much time and money is spent in the physical work of getting content from publishers to printers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers and finally into the hands of the consumer. In smaller markets, the limitations for publishers, especially in distribution, have been signiicant, and it does not seem likely that the necessary networks and infrastructure will be built to make these markets as economically efficient. Let me be clear: there have been incredibly successful businesses built in these environments and many publishers continue to do very well, but the new technology, with its relatively low cost and its global availability, gives us all a chance to make the content businesses of the future.
Publishers have a natural advantage in being professional
Of course, the massive increase in potential audiences is not just an opportunity for companies like Hearst which have been in the content business for decades; in theory, at least, anyone can take advantage of this new access to the consumer to create or aggregate content for digital distribution via the mobile web or an app. But I believe that professional publishers, magazine publishers, have a clear and natural advantage that will see us win in this new environment, just as we have in print.
First, we are professional! Creating consistently relevant, well written, expertly photographed high-quality content for a defined group of consumers, day after day, month after month, year after year, is not a simple matter. Yes, there are examples of individuals creating exceptional content in the blogosphere and vlogosphere, but the quality content that professional publishers produce day in and day out is very hard to replicate.
At Hearst Magazines, we are proud of our journalistic editorial credentials and apply the same standards for digital content that we have always had in print. Thoughtprovoking packages, like the recent Women and Guns, created by the editors of marieclaire.com and subsequently featured in the print magazine, demonstrate this commitment and our willingness to put resources behind these efforts, and many other publishers are taking the same approach.
Publishers have the will and the means to compete
Second, our brands are valued and trusted. Perception is a function of reality, and consumers and marketers alike trust the world’s celebrated magazine brands to deliver what they need and want. Whether it is fashion and beauty news from Harper’s BAZAAR, timesaving home ideas from Good Housekeeping or a marathon training plan from Runner’s World, consumers know that if the information comes from one of these great brands, it has been written by an expert who understands the consumer’s requirements, not by an amateur dabbling in the subject for the first time.
Third, we have the will and the means to compete. Publishers large and small, global and local, are investing in digital content creation and distribution. Evidence from comScore and other analytic measurements suggests that increasingly, it is the brands and companies with roots in consumer-facing print media that are winning audiences online. And it’s not just famous global brands like those owned by Hearst that are succeeding; there are many examples of local brands in individual countries, owned and managed by magazine media companies, that are winning in their categories.
It’s too early to say that the new business model for successful publishing has been fully defined for every business. The landscape is changing at a breathtaking pace and there are many questions for which publishers will need to find answers, but the future looks positive for those that have made the commitment to compete in the new digital, mobile reality. //