Get Ready for the New Ps of Publishing

©IDG Communications, Inc. Photo contributed by Matthew Mikaelian.


Matthew Yorke, President IDG Global Solutions

This article also appeared on Min Online

During my recent travels I heard a comment that struck me as both simplistic and true. For decades discussions about publishing operations have been dominated by the letter P. The factors that drive publishing are people, paper, printing, and postage. I have lost count of how many times I sat in management meetings where these Ps were dissected as we sought to improve efficiencies and increase profits (another very important P by the way!).

The 4 Ps were tied to a discussion of the future of publishing. Not surprisingly, the answers lived in the Ps (it’s hard for publishers to change all their habits!). The new, fewer Ps: Personalization, Portability and Payment are very different from the historical Ps.
So let’s quickly go through each new one:

Personalization
Personalization can mean several different things. On one level it’s an individual reader’s choice on which platform/device is used to consume your content. Does the reader want to receive a print edition or perhaps the paid iPad /tablet app. On another level it’s about creating content that is uniquely tailored to a person’s interests. For this to happen the reader has to share with the publisher a lot about himself and the publisher has to add in layers of data from third-party sources that enriches what a publisher already knows about a reader. With the complete profile, a publisher has a better understanding of the user which is more attractive to marketers Clearly this is not a print world but it is an online/tablet/mobile world where hyper-relevant content leads to an engaged reader and very targeted advertising.

Portability
Portability really means mobility. We have seemingly overnight arrived at the mobile platform and the train is barely ready to leave the station. Analysts predict 45 million tablets and 450 million smartphones will be sold in 2011. More than one million apps will be available in the Android and iTunes stores driving 25 billion downloads! This from a market that barely existed two years ago!

Consumers are getting used to accessing their preferred content when they want it and wherever they are via mobile. For publishers to thrive we have to embrace these platforms and develop content specifically for the form factor to take advantage of the technical prowess of new devices. This level of always being in-touch with readers offers publishers an enormous opportunity to learn more about their readers and deliver on the promise of personalization. What advertiser wouldn’t want to buy access to a well defined audience that relies on a media brand?

Now this does not mean that publishers should rush out and build iPad and Android app versions for all their publications. Indeed, we are seeing some of the appeal disappear from that land of nirvana. Today, iPad editions really lack the scale and metrics needed to gauge true ad effectiveness so that they produce meaningful revenue. Not to mention the issues presented by the iTunes approval process and data issues. But apps are but one aspect of the portability opportunity. HTML5 offers rich promise but it’s still early in the development and deployment stages.

Payment
So much has been written and discussed about the merits of payment models for content. The truth is that there are many different models and we really have only just begun to see some of the necessary experimentation. The metered web seems to be gaining ground with modest success. The N.Y. Times reported in the early weeks of its free and fee plan that 100,000 readers paid for metered and app access. Most analysts agree that this is not far off from break-even on such a model. Of course, there are paid apps that offer promise as well as “premium” editions which publishers are experimenting with by offering special content if readers provide data about themselves . In the b2b space, we are seeing more of this two-way exchange and it is payment of another kind. Lastly, mobile offers tremendous payment opportunities outside of the restrictions of iTunes, if publishers can sell subscription renewals for tablets and process micro-payments via carriers on smartphones to name but two of the options.

The four Ps view of the print media world have been reduced to three new Ps but the uncertainty and complexity have increased significantly. However, publishers who experiment, adapt, listen and respond to their readers (people carries over from one generation to the next), and accept the importance of technology will succeed.

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