The New Mequoda Media Pyramid for Publishers

A more encompassing media pyramid adds delivery platforms and requires additional product development

As we review our product portfolios and media strategies for the 44 benchmark Mequoda Systems we regularly follow, it’s clear that the publishing industry is in the throes of another paradigm shift.

The media pyramid enables us to identify, build and manage a Mequoda System. Building a media pyramid is a fundamental strategy for modern publishers.

In the past seven months, we’ve experienced significant changes. Going forward, if you’re building, buying or managing a media company, these are the seven basic platforms for which you will need a media strategy.

One of the fundamental questions a publisher must decide for each platform is whether to use it for affinity content, i.e., content you will give away to build and maintain an audience, or use the platform for premium content, which you plan to sell.

At Mequoda, we expect to revise dozens of media pyramids that we have identified for brands ranging from America’s Test Kitchen and The Wall Street Journal to the Dark Report and Golf Odyssey.

Why have we chosen the pyramid as a graphic symbol? The average user can find and enter your website through a number of levels, or platforms, on which you distribute content.

That the pyramid is larger at the base and narrower at the top represents the investment of time and money required by the user, which makes each succeeding audience a smaller group accessing the platform.

Media Pyramid Level #1: The Web

The broad bottom of the pyramid represents the largest entry point. Most of the new users who will experience your brand will discover it on the Internet, either through a blog, portal, or community in a social network that you use as an audience aggregation mechanism.

Publishers use the Web to help users discover their website via organic search, give away content and build a database. For example, a customer who has no prior knowledge of Interweave can Google “free sock patterns,” and discover Knitting Daily, subscribe to its free email newsletter, and eventually become a premium product customer of this high quality art and crafts publisher whose content includes magazines, books, TV Shows, ePatterns and eProjects.

Media Pyramid Level #2: Email

The core use of this platform is the daily email newsletter.

The approximately five percent of all the users who visit your website, and offer up their email address to become email subscribers, are exponentially more committed to the brand.

Creating an email subscriber list is fundamental to the modern publisher’s marketing program. This is where the business relationship is launched, nurtured and eventually monetized.

Most Mequoda System publishers send out a daily email newsletter; some also offer a week-in-review. All send regular email promotions and a few send third-party promotions.

The previous Mequoda Media Pyramid included subscriptions, memberships and single copy sales, but we now realize they are payment mechanisms, not media platforms. While we still think subscriptions are important; we now recognize the subscription model can be overlaid on all other levels of the pyramid. Publishers can sell subscriptions to magazines, videos and events. The preferred economic relationship with a customer is a subscription.

Subscriptions are ubiquitous. Publishers love subscriptions because they represent continuity revenue.

Subscriptions are ubiquitous. Publishers love subscriptions because they represent continuity revenue.

Media Pyramid Level #3: Video

Video has now become part of the basic, special-interest media pyramid.

The revolution that began in the 1950s with television has now evolved as a truly mass medium in the second decade of the 21st century. Video was always a “mass” medium because users don’t need to read, they merely watch passively.

Now in 2010, most special interest publishers have begun creating video, which is becoming a regular and expected publishing platform for delivering both free and premium content.

And video production has become surprisingly affordable. Both the hardware and software for video production have become so inexpensive that publishers can furnish a modest but adequate video production studio for merely a few thousand dollars. Additionally, storage and bandwidth on the Internet have become so inexpensive as to be almost inconsequential.

Special interest publishers know that video is a more superior instructional medium than text and photographs. At this moment in the evolution of publishing, the hard copy video, or DVD, is the primary premium medium for delivering instructional content.

Download a FREE copy of 7 Ways to Monetize your Portal Audience, and discover how today's top publishers are generating revenue through memberships, events, clubs, sponsorships, and more.

Media Pyramid Level #4: Software applications

Suddenly, publishers have gone “app happy.” There are now more than 250,000 new apps available from Apple for the iPhone, with the average owner using 16 or more.

App is a generic term for a bit of standalone software. According to Morgan Stanley, typical cell phone users now spend 30 percent of their 40-minutes-a-day average on data, and iPhone users spend 55 percent of their 60-minute average on non-talking phone activities. Apps can help you get in shape, stay organized, be entertained, or connect with the news and with your friends.

For example, Men’s Health is releasing a series of premium workout apps, intended to help users stay fit. A free newsstand app enables users to subscribe to Men’s Health, manage their subscription, or buy individual copies of the magazine.

The Zinio app enables a user to manage subscriptions to 2,800 digital magazines.

Media Pyramid Level #5: Books

The oldest medium has been reborn as the newest medium. In 2009, book readership in America reversed course. The number of books read, per person, went up last year and will soar even higher in 2010.

With the growing acceptance of the Kindle Reader and now the Apple iPad, book sales are up and book readership is climbing for the first time in decades.

A large part of the appeal of reading a book on an eReader or tablet computer is the lower cost — generally about $9.95 vs. two or three times that amount to purchase a hardcover book.

Digital book publishing is not encumbered by the economic concerns of revenue sharing, inventory storage, limited press runs, etc. Here again, digital production and distribution have driven costs downward, which will continue to drop.

Media Pyramid Level #6: Periodicals

The Apple iPad, released in April 2010, has given the magazine the four-color digital expression it needed to gain wide-spread acceptance.

Newspapers, which previously got a boost from the Amazon Kindle and other eReaders, will now evolve to look more like magazines, because four-color production is now inexpensive.

See The Perfect Digital Magazine blog post from last week.

Media Pyramid Level #7: Events

Events have always been at the top of the Mequoda Media Pyramid and include seminars that can have thousands of attendees, as well as B-to-B workshops and one-on-one consulting sessions. All these are experiencing a Renaissance, even though, with the exception of webinars, they are not digital.

Even with all the connectivity and all the digital products that the Internet now enables, the demand for live events — high fidelity, personal face time — has never been greater.

People who spend more time texting than talking on the phone still crave live, social interaction with peers, mentors, and subject matter experts. Demand for live-event products is at an all-time high.

Publishers who have built their brand online are now discovering greater success at marketing their live events. Additionally, as database marketers, the cost of promoting live events with digital media is more affordable than ever.

This is what the Mequoda Media Pyramid looks like in 2010.

Mequoda Media Pyramid

The revised Mequoda Media Pyramid identifies the important roles of video and software applications in the media strategies of modern publishers.

What are your thoughts on the 2010 Mequoda Media Pyramid?

Please share your comments at the blog post.


    Interesting revisions to your pyramid.

    The color coding suggests the top 5 components of the pyramid are “earned media”(?). I don’t think this is intended. (I’m easily confused as you know.)


      Chris S.

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for your comment. The image didn’t render correctly the first time. It’s updated now.



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