Niche publishers can benefit from outsourcing specialized skills they don’t need access to 40 hours a week
Because multiplatform publishing requires a much more diverse skill set than traditional publishing, outsourcing has become one of the keys to creating a leaner, meaner 21st century publishing machine. There are certain skills and functions that must stay inside the organization, and there are other skill sets that niche publishers need, but not on a full-time basis. Outsourcing these functions allows you, as an independent publisher, access to professionals with ideal skill sets that you might only need for 2-10 hours a month.
We’ve come up with a list of skill sets that you can leverage by hiring an Internet marketing services agency like Mequoda. If you’re Hearst or Conde Nast, you have these positions (and then some) staffed full-time, often as a central services group. However, if you’re an independent publisher like the majority of our clients, the economics of your business often don’t allow you full-time access to these skills.
Below is the organizational structure for Green Gardens Network (GGN), the composite case study we use to teach at the Mequoda Institute. And while every publisher’s organizational structure is unique, the chart below draws upon the most common structure we work with at Mequoda.
GGN generates its revenue from multiplatform magazine subscriptions, live events and sponsorships. The positions to the right, in blue, represent the skill sets worth outsourcing for niche publishers.
Chief Strategy Advisor
A vast majority of CEAs today will tell you that strategy is not their strong suit. And why should it be? The CSA of a media company is a master of multiple economic models. At Mequoda, a CSA understands the economics of print and digital magazines, print and digital books, online stores, and a variety of events from live webinars and workshops to conferences with thousands of attendees.
Not only do CSAs understand the economics of all these various media types – both free and paid – they also know how to leverage content across all these platforms in the most efficient manner possible. A CSA for a media company is an expert in 3 key areas:
- media economics
- content marketing
- organizational management
Oftentimes managing an organization that requires such awareness and cooperation across all the various platforms and channels can be a tough feat for a CEO to tackle alone. Outsourcing your CSA also means that he or she has broad experience across different markets and an understanding of strategies that a CEO of a smaller publishing company could not possibly amass when dedicated to a single business.
A unique benefit of outsourcing your CSA to an Internet marketing services agency is getting access to their planning team, who define and outline your company’s goals in a detailed business plan before they begin their work. In Mequoda’s case as an Internet marketing services agency, our planning team works with the client’s C-Level executive team to build a business plan for multiplatform media management success that factors in a company’s content, audience, revenue goals, technology needs and organizational structure.
Another benefit of having access to a CSA is having access to their research team for best practice updates and documentation. In Mequoda’s case as an Internet marketing services agency, our research is what drives us. Our strategy is the result of our research, and our software is derivative of that research.
Having a team to maintain and monitor all the evolving best practices and marketing policies for your Internet publishing and marketing system is the key to running an efficient and profitable business. Research team members are documentation specialists and instructors whose job it is to make sure all systems directors and systems operators have access to relevant and consistent industry updates.
Chief Analytics Advisor
Rarely does a niche publisher have the luxury of a dedicated analytics executive that brings both scope and depth on a myriad of analytics. A good outsourced CAA can see patterns in your data that an overworked on-staff marketing executive might miss. Plus, in an Internet marketing services agency environment like Mequoda, this officer has access to data across dozens and dozens of similar media organizations.
As you may know from reading about our method, we have a set of metrics around our ACEM strategy – Attract, Capture, Engage, Monetize – and our analysts are able to quote industry benchmarks in those 4 key areas. They know what the metrics are supposed to be and when performance takes a dip, they can identify the root causes and suggest actions to lift those specific key metrics.
Working with the CAA is an Analytics Team, comprised of hard-working data analysts who can plow through lots of data, often from multiple sources, in a small amount of time. What might take an experienced and dedicated analyst 10-12 hours to crunch would take the average marketer 20 hours or more to complete.
Chief Technology Advisor
Over the past few years, media company CTOs have had to rapidly adapt technologically to the rise of tablet usage, responsive website design and marketing automation. An effective media company CTO, or if you outsource this role they may be called a CTA, a Chief Technology Advisor, understands how these technologies change the paradigm on which a publisher operates. CTAs must always have one foot in the present and one in the future, understanding how all existing technologies, from web to app to analytics, to customer service and content marketing, span and intercept to create an integrated CXMS (customer experience management system).
Outsourcing this function to an agency that specializes in your industry, like Mequoda specializes in the niche publishing industry, allows you to operate a system that is easy to use and interfaces well with your product offerings and overall business model.
The CTA’s User Experience Team is tasked with understanding all the functionality that a system provides and coding it so that minimum interaction is required. Their goal is to make the interfaces on both the front end (for customers) and the back end (for operators) simple and intuitive.
A multiplatform publisher should aim for a website that has task completion rates in the mid to high 90s, meaning 9.5 to 9.9 out of every 10 visitors on your site can find what they are looking for, both in products and content. UX engineers focus on building things that look the way users think they should look and function the way users think they should function. Outsourcing this to a team who understands your economic goals helps the system they design deliver those goals.
The goal of the CTA’s engineering team, that often include a database team and a data center team, is to be unseen, unheard and unnoticed. The only time you should notice a systems delivery specialist, or a systems engineer is when something failed to work the way it should. On a good day, no one even knows they’re there. These folks are the unsung heroes of a modern automated system. They ensure that all systems maintain a 99.999% uptime, that every transition is recorded and every email is delivered.
Under the CTA is a systems director. This systems director is a publisher’s single point of contact, responsible for implementing the strategy, interpreting the analytics and overseeing the technology. They are the quarterback for the entire CXMS. The CXMS is a fully integrated database of your content, customers and business rules. System directors are efficiency experts and above all others, understand how to manage a complex system where these three databases interact in a way that your customer expects, and the operator spends minimal time executing.
The systems director understands the economics of your business and makes sure the rules that govern the interaction of all three databases operate accordingly and efficiently. A great systems director makes a complex system seem natural to everyone involved and makes sure both internal and outsourced teams are following the rules and processes set forth in your system.
Content Optimization Team
The process of Internet marketing stretches traditional content producers to go beyond what they’ve known in the past. Having access to a team of professional journalists who, in addition to understanding good journalism, market psychology and economic behavior, have SEO copywriting, social media optimization and advanced multimedia like video in their arsenal of skills, is key to keeping your content optimized and competing in a multiplatform, multimedia environment.
Selecting an Internet marketing services agency who can mentor, train and coach your internal content producers to create powerful content across multiple formats in multiple channels is required to master modern-day publishing.
Two keys to multiplatform organizational success
Two keys to organizational success in multiplatform publishing are streamlining the on-staff team members to focus on product management and channel management, while knowing what to outsource. Knowing what functionality to push outside to dedicated specialists who won’t be able to find a home in your full-time staff is critical to succeeding in today’s publishing environment. Independent multiplatform publishers who allow these functions to go undone, or to be done by generalists, won’t succeed and prosper as they might if they were outsourcing this to a trusted third-party Internet marketing services agency like Mequoda.
Great stuff, Don.
As you said, these are skills that are becoming more in demand. But few companies have the resources to put a team like this together in one place.