Happy New Year. There are so many forecasts for magazine publishing in 2013. I thought really hard about writing another, but one thing niggles me about prediction pieces – by definition they are helicopter posts written from 10,000 feet. When you’re that high up it’s tough to see the detail and it’s the detail that really matters.
At the start of the year, rather than set you thinking about industry-wide trends in mobile, HTML5, or the third, fourth or (God Forbid) fifth screen, I want to give you my prediction for your organisation:
This year, you’re going to have to mind the gaps – Gaps left behind by reductions in resource; Gaps opened up by new media platforms
You might not have heard, but doing more with less is a common condition in today’s magazine market – Less people, less pages, less money, less time. Unfortunately there’s no magic bullet. You either have to get more productive by working harder or smarter or you have to stop doing something. Working harder is probably not an option at this point, but working smarter probably is.
Are you making the most of your content? Repurposing? Engaging your audience in the content creation process? Are your print and digital workflows integrated?
While you’re getting better at working smarter, you also need to look at the gaps left by the reduction in resources and decide if you need to fill them. Pick up what your audience values, reassign it back into your schedule, suck it up. But equally, drop anything that doesn’t add value either to your audience or to your revenue generation efforts. The start of the year is a great time to evaluate all your activity and ask if it’s really worth the effort. Figure out how long it actually takes you do do something and then count subscriptions, single-copy sales, page views, dollars. Measure investment against return. If the figures don’t add up, stop it. Really, stop it.
Few magazine people want to be bean-counters, but by measuring inputs against outputs you will, at the very least, identify the obvious time wasters and reduce pressure on your resources. At best, you will free up enough time to take on some of the new platforms that can bring you growth.
The biggest danger in 2013 is that you let the pressure on your resources block adoption of new media platforms. It’s the most natural thing in the world to keep on doing what you’ve always done and ignore the newfangled. But if you do that you’ll get what you always got, and you probably won’t need to worry about any of this in 2014.
See new platforms as opportunities not obstacles. This doesn’t mean taking on every technology innovation that you read about. Check out everything that’s interesting, but only spend real time on those that make sense against the needs and habits of your audience. Does your audience consume your content on the move? If they do, then get busy with mobile. Is your audience active on Twitter. If they are, consider Storify as a way to curate their conversation. Do they like round-up or compilations? Then you should give eBooks a go.
Whether you’re considering gaps in your resources or gaps in your media platform, your audience only really cares about gaps in your content. Ask yourself if your audience will notice the holes where there used to be resources or a new media platform has emerged. These are the most dangerous gaps – the spaces where your audience will eventually look for you and you’re just not there.