Innovation has always been good, but it hasn’t always been as critical as it is right now. For a century or more, industries could rely on scalable efficiencies to survive. They could lower their costs after surmounting high barriers to entry or scale up publication to take better advantage of economies of scale. Publishers could rely on the advertising-supported model to keep them running successfully.
All that has changed with the digital revolution. Today innovation in some form is pretty much required for survival, let alone to thrive. Many publications make the mistake of believing their competition to be other, similar publications and proceed accordingly. In reality, however publications are competing against all the other content providers on the web, including those with many innovative digital capabilities and dedicated personnel to pursue them.
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Even some of the more staid publications that have been around for decades are realizing that their competitors include Netflix, Facebook, Vine, BuzzFeed, and Upworthy. The Wall Street Journal, established in 1889, is the largest newspaper in the US by circulation, with 2.4 million total circulation (including nearly a million digital subscriptions). Not known for embracing changes,The Wall Street Journal is actually embracing innovations to help it compete more effectively in the new publishing ecosystem.
The Wall Street Journal as Digital Innovator?
News Corp, the WSJ’s owner, has taken note of readers’ increasingly digital media consumption habits and recently launched a new content strategy division called WSJ. Custom Studios. WSJ. Custom Studios was created to provide content solutions globally across all platforms, delivering white-label, co-branded and licensed content.
While this may seem revolutionary for The Wall Street Journal, they have actually been more careful about getting into the content solutions game, analyzing issues meticulously in order to get things right from the start. Forbes and The Huffington Post both have had in-house studios and have published native content for a long time, and even The New York Times launched a native advertising platform in January.
Key Concepts for Business Publications in a BuzzFeed World
If you have a business publication, here are some important takeaways you can learn from the experience of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and big web brands like BuzzFeed, Medium, and the like.
Web Video Is Very Important
Marketing research company eMarketer says that digital video ad spending in the US is expected to essentially double from $4.14 billion in 2012 to $8.04 billion in 2016. A surprising number of legacy publishers haven’t made much effort to create a successful online video strategy, even though web video revenue is growing. Many marketers and ad agencies have combined television and web buying operations, and the online content environment is ripe for experimentation and innovation. If you’re not using video for content or advertising, you may want to rethink your strategy.
Content Sharing Is Like Oxygen for All Types of Publications
Trying to control how your content is shared or aggregated is not only nearly impossible, readers consider it arrogant. In fact, making your content easily sharable is practically mandatory for brand building and website monetization. The concept of “sharing” also applies to innovative work processes and technology, so if you’re not plugged into industry events and organizations focused on content development and sharing technologies, you should be.
Consumers Want What They Want on Whichever Platform They Choose
Many digital publications are bloated, cluttered, and make their own valuable content hard to find. Consumers simply don’t put up with this anymore. In a digital world, the concept of the “page” is a holdover from the print era, and you need to move beyond it. People want their content in an engaging format, and they want it to be easy to find via social media, mobile apps, and great design. The device is secondary to the user, and this shows no sign of changing, so you have to make your content available across platforms for maximum success.
Consumers Don’t Want to Waste Time Searching
A sound content experience should marry ease of use with relevant content. Keep in mind that as easy as Google searches are, users still have to know what they’re looking for. Therefore it’s imperative that your publication know your audience intimately enough to know what content they want, and what format they expect. Use your site analytics and consider asking readers what they like and don’t like. Knowing what users want is the first step in giving it to them.
Competing in the digital age means understanding that your business model is changing and will continue to change. Vivaki Rishad of marketing firms DigitasLBi and Razorfish puts it simply: “The future does not fit in the containers of the past.”