It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine.

by Dan Blank on December 29, 2008

Heard any bad news lately? Seems it is all bad, and I don’t think the post-holiday doldrums of January will make anyone feel much better. But I wanted to take a moment and take stock of what the reality of our situation really is. First, an overview of recent news:

  • The economy is tanking!
  • It’s a recession – no – a depression!
  • Real estate market: gone.
  • Stock market: gone.
  • Credit: gone.
  • Unemployment: up.
  • Number products being sold: down.
  • Publishing: dying.
  • Ad spend: shrinking.
  • And I believe we are still fighting a war or two as well, if I am not mistaken.

I’m sure I missed quite a bit, but you get the idea. And yet, I can’t help but be excited about the opportunities in front of publishers and journalists. That doesn’t mean times won’t continue to be tough, but simply that there is no shortage of new ideas and growth within your reach:

  • Your customers need you more than ever.
    Times are tough all over, and likely, your brand is a beacon to those in your industry who are in dire straights. The trust and loyalty that you have built within your industries means that they are looking to you for the answer. The only question is: how are you responding?

  • Technology & tools are cheaper than ever, and not that difficult to learn.
    Yes, the web and new media have shifted things for publishers. But unlike previous shifts that other generations have experienced, this one has put the power directly into each of our individual hands. All these new tools: social networks, blogs, SEO, videos, photo sharing, etc. – they are all largely free, and can be learned and mastered. Yes, it is change, and few are comfortable with change; Yet, everyday I watch someone take a chance – change a process – create something new and compelling – help their readers and customers – and do so using tools that are ready and waiting to be leveraged. The biggest obstacle is simply the will to try.

  • Innovation is born of frustration and need.
    You will never have enough resources. Once you accept that, suddenly it becomes easier to move forward with new ideas. In this climate, there is little doubt as to what our various audiences need most, and with seemingly little to lose, now is the right time to take a chance to serve them in new and unexpected ways.

Again and again, I see examples of teams within my company leveraging new tools, and changing the ways they use their resources to further engage readers.

Rod Sutton, Chief Editor of Construction Equipment, shared a new feature they put online that combined quite a few things:

  • A landing page with internal navigation that breaks up the article into smaller more digestible chunks.
  • Interactive graphics: some really phenomenal ideas here.
  • Introductory video: Rod introduced the piece with a short video to better connect with readers.

Overall, it is a piece that looks like it was developed specifically for the needs of their online readers. Some background on how they put it together:

  • They began developing the online version at the same time they assigned the print piece.
  • This was a collaborative process between Rod, his editors, their local internet liason and their graphic designer.
  • While they have used most of these elements in the past, this is the first time they brought them all together to form a new whole like this.
  • Rod was very conscious to plan so there was no duplication of effort.
  • While he doesn’t have benchmark data for previous features, he will be tracking metrics and using that information to improve the performance of similar features in the future.

When I think of the challenging times we are living in – and see people faced with difficult choices about how to move their business forward as their industry shifts beneath them, I am reminded that:

Bravery is not to be without fear;
Bravery is to be afraid, and push ahead anyway.

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