Bryan Welch answers pressing questions facing online publishers in 2011
I recently had the opportunity to speak with my friend, and colleague, Bryan Welch.
Bryan is the publisher and editorial director of Ogden Publications, Inc. and its flagship media brand Mother Earth News, a popular environmentally-conscience magazine on living “with little money and abundant happiness.”
I have known Bryan for years, and as a publisher, he joined us at the inaugural Summit in 2004, back before we coined the term Mequoda Summit for our biannual conferences.
At that time, Mother Earth News began building an early version of what we now call a Mequoda Content Marketing System, His team added web, email and other digital platforms to leverage their legacy content, brand and audience. Since then, Bryan and his team have been working to successfully improve their digital presence and profits with great success.
As his website traffic and digital profits are both through the roof, I wanted to sit down and discuss Bryan’s approach to managing digital transformation. His top-notch insight to digital publishing is provocative and inspiring…and it’s clear that Bryan believes the real digital transformation is just beginning.
Digital insight for online publishers
To begin, Bryan shared the statistic that 2/3 of his total audience is digital, accounting for 20% of total revenues. He continued by emphasizing that digital content is more profitable on a percentage basis. Digital content generates more customers, less revenue per customer and much higher margins. This shift in core economics confuses many experienced print publishers as they make the shift to multi-platform publishing.
The two most important digital home runs
In the digital realm, magazine archives packaged in digital formats and online-sold magazine auto-renewal subscriptions have been big financial winners for Mother Earth News, according to Bryan. These are two efforts that should be seriously considered by all legacy periodical publishers as they can drive millions in high margin revenue using publishing assets that online upstarts simply do not have.
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How direct mail fits into the marketing equation
Every time a direct mail piece is sent on behalf of Mother Earth News, their website experiences a spike in magazine orders. Those new users will eventually witness the opportunity to auto-renewal. This is where we see the combination of digital and print working together to enhance the user experience.
This process also helps build a consumer database for the publisher, which Bryan referred to as the “primary asset for media companies going forward”. If publishers aren’t aggregating databases of their customers, they will likely become extinct.
Fascination in the digital age
Marketing has been heading in the direction of voluntary interaction for a few years now. Bryan shared his fascination for this movement toward voluntary and expressed his belief that none of the old rules will pertain to marketing in the future.
This change will mean a different economic value of ad connection; the medium will become astronomically more valuable. Instead of trying to stimulate an impulse buy or cram a lot of information into a small amount of time, buyers come directly to the source offering the product they desire.
As publishers, it’s our goal to supply consumers with the information they seek in the most awe-inspiring way imaginable.
Dangers of resisting digital transformation
According to Bryan, when we are preoccupied with defending an existing franchise, it’s easy to lose the spirit of innovation. At that point, we can no longer retain aggressive, talented employees because they typically decide to move on. Resisting innovation will leave you unable to capitalize on opportunity because you’ll become characterized as behind the times.
Bryan Welch will be a Keynote Presenter at the Mequoda Summit East 2011 in Boston, MA. Our new and improved program will run from September 13th to the 16th, and include an array of skill-building workshops and informative panel sessions. Be sure to save the date and register early to receive the best price available.
After speaking at length with Bryan, I am positive you will not want to miss his keynote presentation for a provocative glimpse of our digital future.
For a preview of the Mequoda Summit East 2011 take a look at our agenda and register now.