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What is the secret sauce in the enduring power of special interest media?

“Specialist media has a secret sauce that enables it to prosper,” declared Mike Hewitt, MD Adaugeo Media, and the moderator of one of the first panel discussions of FIPP World Congress 2017 in London.

 

Special interest media panel ()

 

So to discover what those special ingredients the Congress assembled a panel that included representatives from both consumer and B2B media and asked them ‘why it is that publishing niches continue to thrive?’

The panellists were Yulia Boyle - VP Global Media and Experiences at National Geographic Partners; Lisa Granatstein, Editor and VP of Content and Events Adweek; and Gerrit Klein, CEO Ebner Media.

Mike kicked off by asking “what does the future look like for specialist media? Why is it that your companies have been successful? 

Yulia Boyle, VP Global Media and Experiences at National Geographic Partners - At Nat Geo we have had a loyal, passionate and engaged audience for a long time. And we are largely circulation driven. We doubled down on subscriptions, so we are less affected by changes in the advertising world.

Also we have expertise. If you are interested in the environment you need an expert, and we are the experts. At Nat Geo we believe if you offer special value to consumers then they they will come to you. Facebook and Google can't replicate this.

Lisa Granatstein, Editor and VP of Content and Events AdWeek - All publishers are going through a period of transition including AdWeek. We are doing our best to serve our market and they need us to help them do their jobs better. We have a symbiotic relationship with our audience. We are also looking beyond the Facebook and Google duopoly, using other social media like LinkedIn, looking at events and working with thought leaders and consultants. We worked with consultants to help undertake our digital transition. There are lots of opportunities.

Gerrit Klein, CEO Enver Media - The future is brilliant for specialist media because we are special. We have the luxury of not dealing with the general public. As we are a niche we are able to go even deeper into the areas that we are trying to deal with.

Mike then asked about how specialist publishers develop their businesses. “How do they know if there is a gap in the market for a new product, and what type of processes do they go through in assessing this market?”

YB - We often try to spot the niche within the niche. Recently we went deeper into a niche by producing a history magazine in the US. We did this for two reasons. Since 2003 we have had partner in Spain who created a history magazine under our brand and was very successful. We observed that success and also noted that one of our special editions - we produce fourteen per year - sold especially well and that was devoted to history. So we figured it would be a good time to launch a history title. It debuted in 2015 and has been profitable from issue one.

We publish in over 30 different languages and this enables to us to create new products in different markets and then assess how successful they are. If it works in one market we can consider launching it in a new market. For example we have a science magazine set to debut in the US later this year.

LG - We look at the marketplace we are in and how it evolves. We need to understand our our audience and work out what they need to do their job better. Also we think about engagement -  how can we sustain their interest. One weekly issue not enough to do this. Next year we have omni channel content which will be themed each month.

GK - Analyse, analyse analyse! We have an eight step process before we launch anything. We use Google and social media, work out what people interested are in and what are they are searching for. Also we look for ecommerce opportunities. You can tell what people are most interested in as that is what they are buying.

You can be more secure than you could have been in the past with new launches. If you know what people are interested in then you can create the content and monetise it.

Mike then adopted the role of devil’s advocate. “Special interest media. It is for nerds. Is there really a future for specialist content. Surely it is all in fan pages and Wikipedia?”

GK - We deal with an audience, and there are many channels through which we can reach them. We can reach them via events, social media Facebook and YouTube. It is all about the audience. Google and Facebook are our friends and we can use them.

So, for example, with closed YouTube and Facebook channels, we are nudging people through the funnel to the point where they reach compelling content which they may be prepared to pay for. So at the bottom of the funnel is where they will find seminars or conferences. We work to get people through the funnel.

LG - The B2B content we do is specialised and there are only certain places you can get it. It is all about trust. We also looking to  branch out into events. We use our print issue as calling card, but we are looking for other ways to start to extend our brand.

YB - First there is the future of science and nature and photography. These are things we excel at. We don't want people to have their experience and once they have closed the book move on. We need to extend that engagement to social conversations, live events etc. We have hundreds of events where our team addresses audiences from the stage and we have TV too.

An audience member then asked a question about content paywalls. Do they work in specialist media?

GK - We don't care for paywalls. It is the wrong way for us. We try to get maximum reach and then get people to items that cost the most money.

LG - We are exploring paywalls we feel that content is valuable,.

YB - Yes we offer an entire experience with 2,000 long form videos for subscribers.

Lastly Mike asked the panel to come up with one piece of advice that they could share with the delegates.

GK - Don't  trust your guts. Analyse, analyse.

LG - What got you there won't get you there. Be sure to never stop being true to your brand.

YB - Go premium, go niche, be different but offer the best journalism, invest in the biggest and best storytelling.

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