DI Tour: A rainy start, but a flood of insight

There are 25 participants on tour, from the US, UK, Europe and Asia, and on day one, meetings included The Daily Beast, XO Group (focus on The Knot), Huffington Post and Time Inc.

While some of what was discussed was off the record, FIPP’s Cobus Heyl, who is on the tour, did a round up of some of the top-line, key points coming out of the meetings.

Daily Beast newsroom ()

Your 2020 plan

Forget it. Five-year plans are dead. You’d be lucky if you can predict what will be going on in the technology space a year from now. Today mobile is the hottest device on people’s minds; in two years’ time it might not be anymore. Companies need to be agile, must expect and be geared for change and must keep their fingers on the pulse of developments.

Disrupt yourself while you’re winning

Even if your current business model is successful, and can easily deliver steady, albeit lower digit, growth for the next several years, this does not mean there is no need to reinvent yourself today. Spot the trends, think what it might mean for your business down stream and take the leap (“sometimes you have to jump off a cliff and hope you grow wings before you land!”). 

Mobile: it really is the first screen

So much has been said about this already, but it now really is the first screen for online interaction, not the second or third screen. This has and will have massive ramifications on consumer behaviour, not to mention the transactional opportunities – enabling payments – it will bring for content-meets-marketplace plays.

If apps are your thing, consider this: most people on average use five apps. Let’s say one is weather, one Facebook and one Twitter; that leaves you with two opportunities to become part of their habitual use. Think about it.

Video: from clips to feature length films

As with mobile, much has been said about the important opportunity video offers (e.g. engagement one the one hand and high CPMs on the other). Looking at how the approaches to video are playing out, they focus on clips, longer form videos, video series and feature length films. But one simple starting point is embedding interesting videos (rights permitting, linking to the original source) with articles, to add deeper context to your content.

Invest in original, quality content

While a ‘content farm’ approach, aggregating huge amounts of content from a variety of sources may help to build scale, but in the end it is original, quality content that will set your brand apart in a crowded space. It is a fight for people’s time and attention and if you underestimate their attention by providing purely re-hashed content, you’ll lose.

Who develops branded content?

Engagement with proper branded content is “through the roof,” with some branded content even going viral, as if just a normal piece of content. However, the conventional wisdom seemingly busy to develop is that teams creating editorial content and those creating sponsored content should be separate people.

The two Es: engineers and editors

Tech is central to publishing businesses today, but it’s going a step further where engineers and editorial work alongside each other, jointly making decisions to optimise performance as much as they can.

Distributed content: to play or not?

Distributed content – content living natively on social media platforms – is a hot topic. An existing example is Snapchat’s Discover feature, while the elephant in the room is Facebook’s imminent launch of a feature hosting publisher content natively on the platform. There seems to be somewhat of a wait-and-see attitude towards what it might media for different media, of different sizes and with different business models. It’s an “ongoing conversation.”

But you’ve got to be where your consumers are

What is without doubt is that publishers have to experiment on a variety of platforms, reaching out with their content to where consumers are, in a way that satisfy the way in which consumers interact with that platforms (e.g. if a user engages with a piece of your content on Pinterest, you will want that piece of content to be more visual, whereas if it is via Twitter, you may want it to be more feed-based, and to the point).

So, how do you choose which platforms to be on?

There is no firm recipe for deciding on which emerging, new platforms you should also be. And with mobile driving changes in consumption habits, you simply have to have people who constantly monitor trends, look at data coming through and make calls based on the trends developing.

Data, analytics and decisions

It has to be real-time, all the time and used by every one to inform immediate decisions and of course longer term. One example was how an editor saw an article performing below expectation thanks to monitoring it in real time, made a minor tweak to the headline and saw it gather millions of engagements. You simply cannot compete today without a real-time view, across all platforms.

Cost control and focus

With a clearly defined vision and future focus, you have to take stock of which parts of the business fit within your plans and which may be surplus. It the case of the latter, it could include units that perform adequately enough, but are not core to the future. Difficult decisions then have to be made about those business units’ future. In the same vein, it is crucial to rigorously control costs, especially in those areas where growth has stagnated.

Always take your people with you

One of the overarching themes to come out of the meetings on Day 1 is that as a magazine media industry, most businesses are at least aware of the key trends shaping media today. 

The trick, however, is in execution. Here, more often than not, people – openness to change, ability to adapt to new work requirements, to expertise and talent – hold the cards. 

For this reason, whenever you do embark on a new direction, be sure to take people – from the board through to junior level employees – with you on the journey. Culture remains a critical force in whether businesses are able to innovate, pivot and/or transform successfully. Or not.

The FIPP Digital Innovators’ Tour

The group will go on to meet The Content Council (IMPRINT), Atavist, CNN, Domino and Quartz on their remaining days in New York, before heading off to Boston where they will visit Nieman Lab, Thought Industries, MIT Media Lab, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Longitude Media and Google in Boston.

The DI tour is an extension of FIPP, VDZ and eMediaSF’s successful Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin. This year’s DI Tour (with 25 participants) visits companies in New York and Boston, the USA, from 20-25 April.

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