By Nikki Golden
Chicago Chapter President
I asked over on the Chicago Chapter blog a few weeks ago: Where does innovation come from? My question stemmed from the fact that editors have some really great ideas, and yet a lot of the time, they’re unable to make the case for them to be implemented because we’re not used to putting a monetary value on our thoughts. If we have a journalism degree, our training is mostly rooted in the basics of reporting, writing and editing, with maybe a design class sprinkled in, maybe a class in creating a business plan for starting a new publication, but at the time, it was so drenched in theory, who thought it would be useful information 10 to 15 years later?
So it was with interest that I read Jonah Bloom’s article in Ad Age, “Despite Claims to Contrary, Magazines Still Rooted in Past.” The article refuted Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s comments to the American Magazine Conference a few weeks ago. He said that it was the job of the magazine to cut through the “cesspool” of information online and be its audience’s filtration system. Bloom’s argument is that most magazine titles — and he’s referring to consumer magazines, but I believe this is just as apt for B2B titles — are not even close to the first five places its readers look for information. His argument is that most publications have not established their brand beyond the printed format.
He writes: “But magazines are not marketed like brands. They spend little advertising themselves to either consumers or the marketers that support them, and when they do, their messages tend to be focused on the content of the publication. In other words, their marketing isn’t brand marketing; it’s customer-acquisition marketing.”
I don’t think anyone could have put it better. Just as editors are not trained to monetize their ideas, we also are not trained to be marketers. In fact, marketing is a dirty word, right up there with salesperson.
But that needs to change — and fast! We need to focus on what will make us top of mind for our industry, not just in terms of being the go-to person for national consumer media, as Tonie Auer wrote, but for our readers. When there’s a crisis in the industry we cover, we want them to visit our Web sites and look to us to sort the information out, not The New York Times or CNN… or our competitors.
If we cover products, we need to figure out a way to allow our readers to find that product without feeling as if we’re giving something away. Our readers don’t care if our sales team sells product links and this manufacturer didn’t purchase that, so we don’t include a link. All our readers care about is that they want to find this product and can’t. We need to be thinking of how we can engage our readers in ways that our convenient and necessary for them.
Print is still important, but it needs to be looked at as part of a whole, and we, as editors, need to start thinking of the broader picture. How do the Web site, conferences, Webinars, podcast, your Facebook page all complete and complement your print offering? That’s the question the industry has struggled to answer. But if we continue to struggle much longer, we will lose.