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A New Competitive Opportunity

Posted on Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 10:56 PM

After an election plagued by fake news, magazines have an opportunity to reassert themselves as credible news sources.

By William Dunkerley

You might not think the grueling presidential election season could benefit magazine publishers. But it really has offered us an interesting opportunity: to differentiate our publications in a positive way and gain a competitive advantage.

This gift arises from the scourge of "fake news" that has captured headlines in recent months.

It involves politically motivated content that may have nothing to do with the scope of your own editorial product but has awakened a suspicion in many media consumers. They're aware now that it may be unwise to trust information that is widely circulated online.

More about fake news in a moment, but first:

Many publishers have long bemoaned losing audience to relatively low-quality content that is conspicuously and freely available online. Consumers have gravitated to these offerings. Some of them have perceived no difference between this kind of content and that of reliable magazine brands.

Now is the time to broadcast that difference to your important constituencies: readers and advertisers. It is important that they know your editorial product has clear benefits for them.

"Fake news" has been big news, and it has attracted much attention. That means the time is right for you to take advantage of heightened concerns over credibility.

What kind of fake stories came out during the election season?

--There was, for instance, a story that Trump supporters were going to boycott Pepsi products. It had no basis in fact.

--There were media claims that intelligence reports evinced Russian culpability in the DNC hacking scandal. But the reports actually said no such thing.

--And there was a story that thousands of fraudulent ballots marked for Clinton were found in a warehouse. But that discovery never happened at all.

Even President Barack Obama has called the public's attention to the fake news issue. At a press conference in Berlin, he sharply criticized fake news. The New York Times reported he "used the moment to make a passionate and pointed attack on bogus news stories disseminated on Facebook and other social media platforms, twice calling such false reports a threat to democracy in his hourlong news conference."

But while Facebook and social media were singled out, many of the fake news stories received mainstream attention, too.

Now, a lot of people are thankful that the 2016 election season is mostly over, regardless of the outcome. The politically hypermotivated fake news stories will, with any luck, finally subside.

But the scourge of fake news is rubbing off on us all. Consumer esteem for information providers has been seriously challenged. Public awareness of media flim-flams has been heightened.

Now the question is how we should respond. How can we seize this as an opportunity?

Here's My Advice

--For readers and prospective readers, sell trustworthiness. Attract and keep audience on the proposition that you can be trusted as a source devoid of fake news. Right now is the time when consumers will be most likely to see the value in that.

--For advertisers, sell the notion of a trusted place. Advertisers who throw their ad dollars out on the Internet, perhaps not even knowing where their ads will land, are not assured of readers seeing the ads in a place of trust. You can offer that special place. It is a place where readers will view the advertisements in a framework of trust, not skepticism. That will surely be a winning business proposition.

Highlight the distinct value that an established and respectable editorial brand can offer over the shady, unreliable, and sometimes fly-by-night alternatives that are so easily encountered online.

The window of opportunity is now open. Don't miss the chance to grasp it and gain a significant competitive advantage.

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

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