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Issue for March 2018

A "Production Mind-set" Can Kill You

Posted on Friday, March 30, 2018 at 12:03 AM

If your main focus is restricted to getting out the next issue, you may encounter trouble ahead. These days "agility" is the byword for future success.

By William Dunkerley

Maintaining a "production mind-set" in managing your publication may be working to your detriment. I'm not talking about production in the sense of layout, design, and getting content ready for distribution. What I mean is a hyper-focus on all the mechanics of getting out the next issue. If that is eclipsing your responsibility for adapting to a changing publishing environment, you may face trouble ahead.

Of course, there are always the necessities of pushing forward on the production of the next issue. Deadlines certainly confront us with that all the time. The trouble is that many of us are not sufficiently looking beyond that.

The Problem with the Production Mind-set

For a long time, magazine publishing has been a kind of replicative process. While every issue has fresh and new content, we don't reinvent ourselves each time. In contrast, think about automobile manufacturers. They come out with a new model every year. The change may be evolutionary rather than dramatic. But constant change is the name of the game. When is the last time you redesigned your magazine or reinvented yourself in some other way?

I'm not suggesting change for the sake of change. But we are facing an environment that is outstripping even global climate change by a high multiple.

Yet too many publishers I deal with have internal business systems that lock them into using static strategies over and over. I'm thinking of a couple of publishers that have straitjacketed themselves with their budgeting regimen. By November of this year, they'll have set goals for next year and devised methods for achieving them, and they will roll out their static plans when the new year begins.

Even if you use the concept of zero-based budgeting, and even if you have poured great intelligence into forecasting what's ahead, the dynamics of today's publishing industry will confound you.

What's more, a relatively static plan intrinsically retards growth and adaptation. If managers are rewarded when they hit milestones and achieve objectives, it encourages poor planning. What I've seen is that managers will forecast easy-to-reach goals. That usually leaves little incentive to do better. Taking initiative to surpass static goals often exposes managers to risk. And that can be very disincentivizing. Many choose to play it safe.

Switching to the Agility Mind-set

The opposite of the "production mind-set" is the "agility mind-set." It places emphasis not on replication, but on actively keeping your pulse on emergent changes and adjusting your strategies accordingly.

Look what just happened with Facebook. Suddenly it has fallen into disrepute over privacy issues. It's too early to know how much damage bad press will do to the platform. But if your publication has been relying heavily on its Facebook presence, it's time to rush back to the drawing board. Playboy wasted no time and deleted its Facebook account in response to the scandal.

Perhaps Playboy's readers may be more sensitive about privacy than yours. But online denizens seem to be waking up to the extent to which data from their online activities is being mined. Europe is ahead of us on that. They may be on the leading edge of the privacy rights issue.

Another point is that agility does not mean following trends. That practice may not get you where you want to go in the long run.

History gives a clue. In the marketing field there once was a trend toward telemarketing as a revolutionary new tool. Unfortunately, the exuberance of short-sighted marketers put a damper on that. They pushed telemarketing to the point of creating widespread consumer annoyance and frustration.

Laws were enacted to regulate the field. Legislators poorly crafted the laws, though, and a pall still hangs over the industry. Telemarketing has become a subject of ridicule in popular culture. The Electronic Privacy Information Center puts it mildly: "Telemarketing is highly unpopular among Americans."

Other trends have backfired too. Email marketing gave rise to spam. According to the Pew Research Center, "Some 70 percent of email users agree that spam has made being online 'unpleasant or annoying.'"

And pop-ups? A whole industry has popped up to block them. According to The Verge,, "The man who created the first pop-up ad says 'sorry.'"

Embracing Innovation in a Dynamic Industry

So if the replicative "production mind-set" isn't good, and if it's not good to just follow trends, what's left to do?

Now is the time to be an iconoclast and practice innovation. That could be a big adjustment for some of us.

According to neuroscientist Gregory Berns, "In order to think creatively, you must develop new neural pathways and break out of the cycle of experience-dependent categorization. As Mark Twain said, 'Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.' For most people, this does not come naturally. Often, the harder you try to think differently, the more rigid the categories become."

Journalist Linda Ray points out that "iconoclastic leaders don't just think outside the boxes, they don't even acknowledge the boxes exist. Iconoclastic leaders eschew old ideas and ways of doing business in favor of innovation and creative thinking. They encourage their employees to try new techniques and practices. They don't place boundaries on employees, but instead encourage them to reach beyond the norm. True iconoclastic leaders practice what they preach by ignoring what everyone else is doing in favor of forging new paths."

Ray offers four keys to success as an iconoclastic leader:

1. Take Risks. As an iconoclastic leader, you may have to buck the trends and take your company into uncharted waters to achieve your goals.

2. Build Confidence. When you reject the commonly held beliefs that you should run your business in a certain way, you've got to have extreme confidence in your ideas and your ability to pull them off.

3. Create Visions. You need to be able to communicate your visions to others or develop the capacity to capture the vision of others when you see it.

4. Be Fearless. In addition to the criticism you'll receive, you must be prepared to accept responsibility for your decisions. You can't fear retribution or failure.

So what do you think about an "agility mind-set"? Are you up for the challenge?

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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Monetizing Facebook Groups

Posted on Friday, March 30, 2018 at 12:01 AM

In the news: How some publishers are turning to Facebook groups as a potential driver of revenue.

Can publishers drive revenue through Facebook groups? Many publishers already connect with readers on Facebook pages, which tend to be a bigger draw than smaller groups. But now some publishers, including Outside magazine, are testing the waters with groups. Max Willens of Digiday.com writes: "Groups require persistent tending and attention, not just from junior audience development staffers but from high-level editors and other people who represent the face of a publisher's brand."

Next month, Outside magazine will be launching a new Facebook group in conjunction with one of its advertisers. According to Willens, "The group will include a pinned post directing readers to a piece of branded content explaining the brand's involvement, and the brand will share moderating duties with Outside editorial staffers. The brand also will help draft the group's welcome messaging, and where appropriate, be allowed to run giveaways in the group." Read more about the group here.

Also Notable

Playboy Joins the #DeleteFacebook Movement

Not all publishers are still embracing Facebook. This week, Playboy joined entrepreneur Elon Musk and actor Will Ferrell, among others, in deleting its Facebook page. The departure comes in response to the recent Cambridge Analytica data breach. Playboy's official statement indicates its reluctance to expose readers to further data breaches. Read more here.

Meredith Makes Changes at Time Inc.

Meredith is now gearing ad sales efforts for its recent acquisition, Time Inc., toward individual titles rather than categories. Writes Audrey Schomer of BusinessInsider.com: "Meredith's latest move to reorganize Time Inc.'s ad sales operations under Meredith's existing sales structure aims to drive stronger relationships between specific magazine brands and advertisers, which has been key to Meredith's strategy." The move is one of several major changes at Time Inc. this month. Two weeks ago, Jessica Toonkel and Liana B. Baker of Reuters reported that Meredith was considering selling Time, Fortune, Money, and Sports Illustrated. Read more here and here.

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