Simplifying and Integrating

by Dan Blank on December 29, 2008

Engaging readers online is a challenge. So many fish in the ocean… how does a publisher capture their attention and convert that moment of interest, into a daily habit?


And let’s face it, publishers are not without ideas. Brands have worked hard to create online content of the highest quality, and has packaged and repackaged it to leverage new media. This image could show the products of any brand… from the New York Times to PaidContent.org.


But these efforts don’t include the full picture of what our readers and customers are presented with. Competitors are likely trying to engage this same audience, who also have the entire web vying for their attention, and new media such as social networks that are continuing to grow in user adoption.


In a situation like this, more is not more. Readers are drowing in information.
Editors, likely, are drowning in responsibilities.
The marketplace is flooded with more and more distractions.
All while readers try to focus on their real goals: success in their business and careers.
If people are drowning in information, how do publishers engage them?
And how do they monetize this connection in such an environment?


Trends that we see in consumer products extend to a world where media is cheap to create and cheap to distribute. When the iPod entered the MP3 player market, they were extremely late to the game. However, they focused not only on product design, but on an integrated solution for legally downloading music in a fun and easy way. Instead of creating a slightly better MP3 player, Apple focused on the deeper needs, and provided a truly elegant solution. What they knew was that "good enough" is no longer enough to compete in a crowded market. The marketshare of the iPod is now over 70% of the mp3 player marketplace. Like the terms Xerox or Kleenex in previous generations, their single product came to define an industry.

Such is the conundrum for publishers. Content not only has to be of the highest quality, but fight for exposure during a media revolution. This is a world where my parents are creating reviews for Amazon.com and my 15 year old nephew is creating videos for YouTube. This is no longer a world divided between publishers and consumers. We are all publishers.


When thinking about content, publishers cannot create any more islands. A series of tactics… of "good ideas"… is not enough. Readers need integrated solutions, and have a precious few minutes in a day to discover information that will push their business forward.


The most essential part of publishing is the reader. It is about helping them make a connection to the things they need most. In a world where the media consumption landscape has shifted, brands have to figure out how can our content be integrated into new systems – beyond their own websites, onto the web of social networks, forums, blogs and search.

Because readers don’t want a magazine. They don’t want an article. They don’t want a website. They don’t want a blog. They don’t want a video. They don’t want a social network.

  • They want information that moves their career forward.
  • They want ideas to innovate in their job.
  • They want to connect to people who can help them in their industry.
  • They want solutions to their toughest business needs.

And they want all of this in a simple way that fits into their already busy lives. While I LOVE magazines and am a huge advocate for new media, the biggest trap for publishers is to focus too much on the media itself… and not enough on the goals of their readers.

This may seem obvious, but just look at the many online startups and ventures that are clever ideas, that don’t seem to solve a deep need that anyone actually has. It’s hard to build a business around that.

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