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Internet Publishing Strategy 2006

It’s 2006. How’s your Internet Publishing Strategy doing? Fifteen years after Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, most publishers are still struggling to cope with a permission marketing world where consumers have all the power.

If you’ve made the shift, congratulations and welcome to the brave new world of niche media empires, media agnostic publishing and user-centric product design. If not, you may have noticed that your old vertical media dynasty may be losing value at an increasingly rapid pace. Time to wake up and smell the electrons.

Executive Summary

The holidays are always a great time to catch up with old friends, do a little reading and contemplate where we are on the Internet Publishing Strategy time line.

I had a chance to catch up with a long-time friend who has been instrumental in my evolution from an interruption marketer to a permission marketer. Although he’s worked for some very progressive media companies, he’s now the CEO for an old-line magazine publisher that he is supposed to convert into a new media company, driven by a robust Internet Publishing Strategy.

He wanted to know all about the conversion process—not for landing pages or renewals—but for organizations. After taking in what I had to offer about the Internet Publishing Strategy for the best and the brightest media organizations we’ve chronicled and coached over the past few years, I asked how he was doing with his new organization’s Internet Publishing Strategy.

“Not great,” he said with some level of frustration. “We want to be an integrated media company with a great Internet Publishing Strategy, but I don’t feel like we’re making much progress. My team talks about Internet Publishing Strategy all the time, but they’re really just trying to do what we did in print on the Internet.”

While he knew generally where he wanted his Internet Publishing Strategy to go, he was having real trouble getting his organization to follow. The company is big and has to make its numbers every quarter. That reality keeps getting in the way of forming and executing an innovative Internet Publishing Strategy.

“I’m trying to figure out how to redesign the airplane while I’m flying it,” he said. “I’m embarrassed to tell you that most of our email lists are still compiled and we’re still compiling. Seth (Godin) would not be proud. I’ve got 10 email newsletters that generate good revenue, but not nearly as much as they should. We’ve got massive content that only gets used once—in the magazines. I’ve got an IT department that thinks they’re in charge of the Internet. My ad guys are scared to death of anything that is not sold on a CPM (cost per thousand) basis. And it goes on and on,” he said.

My friend went on to describe a number of small, sound initiatives he had underway that were pieces of a comprehensive Internet Publishing Strategy. Most were staffed independently and reported directly to his COO. He was making progress.

The Big Question:
“I know I need to build a Mequoda Internet Hub [1] and Website Network [2] for each audience group. Do I do it from scratch or do I cannibalize one or more of my existing newsletters to jumpstart the new effort?” asked my old friend.

My Answer: Start from Scratch

If you want true innovation from a large organization, your best bet is to start with a clean slate and access to all the corporate resources.

  1. Assign your best publisher, editor and online marketer to create a killer Mequoda Internet Hub, indispensable daily email newsletter and digital media network.
  2. Give them no limits on the technology platform or Internet business models.
  3. License them full digital use of the content from all your existing magazines, newsletters and books for two years for free.
  4. Authorize and credit them 100 percent for their sales of all your existing print media products and encourage them to develop new digital versions.
  5. Allow them to fail and iterate their strategy without fear of being fired.
  6. Follow the seven Mequoda System best practices pioneered by others over the past 15 years. The system exists. Free them to use it and they will create your future.

What would you do (or are you doing) at the beginning of 2006 to make the Internet the nexus of your niche media empire?

Note: The details of the case have been modified to protect the identity of the publisher and program. If you’ve got a case study you’d like to share, send me an email [3]. Your privacy is my top concern.