Maximising the tools and trends of the digital age

The future of magazine media relies on producing and delivering content in unique ways to continue bringing in profits. FIPP Congress panelists Michael Federle, COO of Forbes Media, USA and Vittorio Veltroni, managing partner of Applix, Italy, today discussed how their organisations have changed their business models to maximise the tools and trends of the digital age.

Forbes Media’s new model is unique not just in its organization structure (small internal staff and “a fantastically large” external staff) but also in its control of the editorial process. Unlike its old model with a command-and-control linear structure by editors throughout the content creation process, Forbes’ new multi-channel model is “a very radical leap,” said Federle. Forbes’ “new newsroom for the digital era” is very data-driven and reliant on contributors who are in complete control of the information they post.

“We edit the talent, not the content,” said Federle about the thorough vetting process that contributors undergo before joining the publication.

Contributors are selected from experts in respective fields who have an authentic voice and can contribute meaningfully to conversations. They are compensated based on a minimum commitment of posts per month, and are rewarded for views as well as return views. The “homegrown” technology deck, which is in the process of being commercially licensed, allows contributors to self-publish their content and measure their success through the seven-module deck’s data feedback loop. In the old mode, there is very little data flow coming back from the consumer, said Federle.

The new format allows for innovation in advertising with what Federle described as non-disruptive, native advertising for the social era: 20 brand voice partners, in this case.

Based on Omniture data, the new format is a resounding success. From July 2010 to July 2013, Forbes has gone from 14 million monthly pageviews to 49 million. In the month of September 2013 alone, the Forbes website has already earned 43 million unique views. This is journalism going social, said Federle.

“What we’ve done is create a scalable model of content and it’s working well,” said Federle.

Veltroni from Applix offered a different focus for building content, which he said is contained within “a buyer’s market.” Customers self-select the media they consume and how much time to spend on it—time that has grown exponentially but not alongside commensurate increases in revenue.

Veltroni suggested that media publishers aren’t focusing on the right relationships and asked: Is it still correct to look at time spent per media as a meaningful harbinger of revenue to come?

Instead, publishers should be focusing on relevance. “It’s the category we are selling to advertisers and customers,” said Veltroni.

At Applix, content is also measured by its “malleability,” or the ability to repurposes for multiple uses. Continual innovation is as essential as rethinking old models has been for Forbes. This is not a world where once achieved, always achieved, said Veltroni.

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