Magazine industry veteran in optimism shock.

Last Friday I came out of a meeting with a group of publishers feeling vaguely optimistic about the future of the industry – which is something that I can’t say has happened for quite some time.

I was moderating a user group meeting for one of the subscription bureaus and present were clients representing B2C and B2B publishers, big and small titles, UK and international.

The details of what was discussed aren’t important (and are anyway bound by the secrecy of the confessional), what was encouraging was the attitude. Although many of the people there talked about a ‘digital first’ strategy, what they were actually pursuing was a ‘customer first’ strategy – they want to deliver their product however the reader wanted to consume it, whether that was in print, digital, bundle, web, app, whatever.

“Agnostic marketing” was a termed that was used – it wasn’t a matter of promoting one particular delivery channel, but promoting the brand. And the brand in all its forms – magazine, products, events, add ons. Again the details aren’t important, it was the urge to innovate and to test that came across most strongly: “we don’t know what’s going to work, but we don’t yet know what’s not going to work, so we want to try as much as we can and see where the data lead us.”

The other encouraging note was when one of the publishers said – to universal agreement – “we have to realise we are ecommerce businesses now”, which means competing on service, delivery, choice and user experience. So they want their web pages and ordering processes to be more like Amazon or John Lewis, not dictated by bureau technology or editorial design; they want customers to get real time access to their digital product and have physical product in their hands much more quickly than at present. (And three loud cheers to that from me.)

And they want to react like ecommerce marketers, with real time data and the facility to switch, change and test products, bundles, offers and prices.

This is all good. If we are moving away from the mindset of managing the decline of print while building up digital to simply “how can we give our customers what they want, in the form they want it”, there might actually be an industry left in ten years time.

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