Digital Directions: 6 Tools for Digital Success That Won’t Break the Bank
Publishers have long understood that the successful transition to a digital media organization requires sweeping changes: changes to product models; changes to distribution strategies; changes to technology platforms; and changes to the skills needed inside the organization. The question often seemed not "What needs to change?" but rather "What doesn't?"
Over the past two years, the industry's learning curve has been significant. We are beginning to get a good handle on exactly what areas of activity are most significant in moving the organization forward:
- Digital asset management (DAM)
- E-books and digital distribution
- Mobile offerings
- Digital marketing via social media
- Business process platforms
- Metadata management
And, incidentally, it is critical for some of these activities to take place with great speed, lest market share be lost.
Now, how do we pay for this—especially in a recessionary economy and while dealing with eroding revenues in many markets? The answer will depend upon each organization's specific circumstances, but here are some effective ways to move your organization forward digitally without unduly harming your bottom line:
1. First, don't be first.
It is exciting to be first to market, but it usually is less than profitable. Try to be second, not first. Watch for successful product models, and adapt successful strategies. True, there is a risk that first- movers will end up dominating a market segment. However, first-mover advantage is less of a critical success factor for publishers with unique content offerings. Your differentiation of content is a barrier to entry for others. I am not saying to wait and let the parade pass you by. Just let others experiment with their money, and you can benefit from the lessons learned.
2. Get serious about social media marketing.
Publishing organizations have been exploring social media for some time, but it usually is given a lower status compared to "real" marketing and e-commerce websites. Smaller organizations should think about flipping this hierarchy. Well-executed social media strategies are great democratizing tools that level the playing field. Smaller publishers can tweet just as loudly as large competitors. Social media may be a far more economical and pervasive way to get markets talking up your products than building a bigger website. Instead of funding the next bloated website redesign, replete with a panoply of questionable ancillary content, organizations might be better served by hiring savvy social media marketers and keeping their old-school websites to a minimum.
3. OPM (other people's money): Have your development partners 'put skin in the game.'
Publishers need product development partners to get complex products like full-featured mobile apps into the marketplace. That won't change. But publishers can ask their development partners to share in the product development costs. Partners should cover development costs not associated with content preparation—such as software development—in exchange for a share of the revenue. After all, the publisher already has paid for the content creation. If your partner believes in the opportunity, they should put some skin in the game. If they don't see the opportunity, you should move on to the next partner.
4. Don't wait for the DAM system.
Publishers understand that scalable digital product programs rest upon DAM platforms. The acquisition of such systems is often expensive. Without ready funds for software purchases, many organizations do nothing and watch the chaos of their media management escalate. However, DAM has more to do with standards, process and management than it does expensive software. Much can be done with a file system and a simple relational database, if properly configured and managed. You can afford the fancy-schmancy software when your digital product revenue warrants it. So stop sniffling about how much they cut your capital expense budget, and get your DAM act together.
5. Hosted solutions.
SaaS (software-as-a-service) provides applications on a subscription basis over the Internet, and is often a great way to add capability without the costs associated with software acquisition and support staff. SaaS offerings can be found in content management, metadata management, editorial workflow solutions, mobile delivery frameworks, e-commerce—you name it. SaaS is not a panacea, however: You have less customization available to you than if you licensed and installed the software yourself, and you have to keep your data on someone else's server—which gives many publishers the willies. However, it does get you started without a lot of cash. Then, you can prove the viability of your digital programs, which will allow you to make the business case for a capital investment of software.
6. Don't skimp on design.
Design is a great investment. It provides brand differentiation as well as greater product utility through usability design. Design is a critical skill set in successful cross-channel product distribution. Here is the best part (long known by Steve Jobs): Great design often can deliver market success even if the product features are less than the competition. Android versus iPhone anyone? So don't skimp on design, and if at all possible, keep designers happy and on staff. Talent is not a commodity. BB
Andrew Brenneman is founder of Finitiv (Finitiv.com), a consulting and services organization that develops and executes transformative digital strategy for publishers and other content organizations.