Following on from my post this week “10 essential steps to change editorial to embrace digital“, I found myself embroiled in a really revealing discussion with a member of the STM Publishing group on LinkedIn. For those of you that may not know, STM stands for Science, Technical and Medical, and is, as you can imagine, a major branch of the global publishing.
As ever, I had cross-posted the article to various relevant groups on LinkedIn, including STM Publishing, as I find it a really effective way of increasing exposure to my ideas. Anyway, I digress.
Following publication, up popped a comment that simply said: “What makes you think editorial has not embraces [sic] digital? My company went digital in 1990! I would like some evidence.”
Goodness, I thought, this company was clearly way ahead of the game. However, on closer inspection, it transpired that my correspondent was a little mixed up. He considered a shift to using “word processors” (and by association I assume moving away from typewriters) and the end of hard copy manuscripts as examples of a digital business. Further, he also considered that “the day for digital innovation and disruption is about done and now it is just applying the technology”. So, his view seems to be that innovation is over, there will be no more digital disruption, and we can all sleep soundly in our beds.
What is the meaning of digital?
My purpose in highlighting these contributions to the debate on digital transformation is that it may not be a simple segmentation between those that “get digital” and those that don’t. While there is an expanding cohort of people who really understand how digital can help publishers, there also appears to be those who think they get it, but who are actually naysayers who consider it as no big deal. That thought can only be filed in one place, under “ignore at your peril”.
Extracting maximum value from the possibilities presented by digital is a learning process that is only going to accelerate. As I have commented on these pages previously, we are still only at the beginning of the digital era which can only be characterised as a period of massive disruption and immense opportunity and threat. The risks of inaction are far greater than the risks of trying new approaches and then getting them wrong.
Digital focus in PwC Media Outlook 2012 – 2016
In publishing, digital creates the potential to extend beyond the core offering, to open up new revenue streams through engaging in ways that were never previously possible. The PwC “Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2012 – 2016“, that was published this week, says the industry has entered a “new normal”, with digital embedded in business-as-usual. It is, PwC says, “the end of the digital beginning”. That may be so, and it only serves to ring alarm bells ever louder for those who still think digital doesn’t apply to them.
PwC said those publishing companies that thrive will be leading the cause for innovation and those that understand behavioural changes in the world will be able to take advantage. There were three key areas to be understood:
- Understanding the connected consumer through data analytics while heeding concerns over privacy.
- Devising new business models to reinvent the value proposition of advertising and content.
- Developing the organisational models and collaborative capabilities to drive revenues from new behaviours.
As ever, this is rooted around the customer and customer behaviour. It is about understanding customer data and how the customer engages in a connected, multi-screen environment, while also allowing the customer to be in control rather than just being “owned”. People will volunteer greater amounts of data when they feel it is in their own best interests.
Businesses need to aim for a win-win model in which the medium, the advertiser and the consumer all collaborate and benefit. Ultimately, the only person who ‘owns’ the customer – and the customer’s data – is the customer him or herself.
And back to the original discussion on LinkedIn.
To my correspondent, I say, “in your long career you may think you’ve seen it all before, but the truth is there has never been a disruptive force as powerful as digital unleashed on the publishing world. It is no longer just about pushing “stuff” at readers, it is about collaborating with customers. Publishing businesses need to extend their activities, there needs to be innovation, and they need to understand how they can help solve their customers’ problems.”