A week and a half ago I spoke at Outsell’s BrainGain conference to a group of leading executives from traditional publishers on how they can deliver relevance to their audience. It was a great group of folks and the Outsell team does their best to steer them in the right direction. However, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that I was speaking to someone on life-support
Search has rocked their world. It has destroyed their content hierarchies. Yet, in a room of 100 leading publishing execs I could count on one hand the number that even knew that Google’s ranking algo is foremost based on links. Social media has also changed the game for them but there seemed little desire to embrace this or understanding why and how it works and no initiatives to lead in SMO rather than follow. Adding insult to injury, technologies like RSS and Ajax are fundamentally changing the way people interact with content while simultaneously destroying the core revenue models for many in the audience. All in all it’s a challenging time to be a publisher.
The first step to solving any problem is recognition and the good news is that publishers do know things have changed. They also realize they do not have the in-house knowledge to adapt. They want to learn, they want to change. But will they? Can they?
John Battelle has an interesting post about publishers and their lack of embrace of what he referrers to as conversational media. It’s a timely post especially considering that in great irony Time Magazine has just named “You”the person of the year.
What can publishers do to adapt? Here are a few broad ideas and some more tactical ones following in the presentation below:
1. Think like a search engine: Always deliver relevance based on what you know about the user’s goals.
2. Leverage the platform: The web is not a one-to-one but rather many-to-many exchange, free from hierarchy and oligarchy (this is the original vision of Tim Berner-Lee).
3. Release your content: The more content you have available the larger your audience and the more you will facilitate the exchange of ideas.
To be blunt it’s what you can do for your audience not what your audience can do for you. If you don’t keep your audience engaged and interested they will go elsewhere. There are simply too many other choices and zero switching cost. Worry about revenue models later or die today. The choice is yours.