Friday, April 27, 2007

Print Publishers Moving Online

The popularity of the internet has posed both opportunities and challenges for traditional print publishers. The opportunities, like the challenges, are numerous, and all are worth discussing. This entry will highlight a few key issues - more may be explored in future posts.

By now, print publishers have realized the web can be leveraged as a means to generate incremental revenue from existing and new advertisers. Compounded by the fact that most consumers expect an online presence for any brands they interact with, the pressure to offer an online experience is high. Some publishers have rushed to create a web destination, only to realize the tremendous learning curve that exists. Many errors have been made by many publishers along the way. As a result, this industry continues to tweak and rebuild their websites in an effort to find a viable, feasible and effective online model.

It's not an easy task to increase readership while avoiding cannibalizing the existing print audience. If print readers begin to abandon the hard copy for the web version, sales will drop and advertisers will begin to notice. Publishers must leverage the web as an extension of print, offering exclusive, interactive and unique content online, so that they print and web versions are distinct, each boasting their own value propositions. Replicating the entire print publication online is a sure-fire way to decrease print sales, given how ubiquitous and accessible the web has become.

Any publication that has attempted to leverage the existing print sales team to push online ad sales will know what a challenge this can be. Print and web sales require a different lexicon, a different sales pitch, and a true recognition of the value of online advertising in order to execute sales for both entities effectively. In most cases, the print sales team will continue to only sell print ads, despite a different mandate - it is what they are good at and what they understand. Some publishers have determined that introducing a dedicated web sales force is a more effective approach. Again, the goal is to drive incremental sales - not to split existing sales between print and online. Remember, the sales team must continually reinforce the distinct value of the website. This means that ad space online can never be offered as a bonus for purchasing print ads - the website will require it's own rate card and product offering for advertisers.

It's only a matter of time until a print publication masters the online space - the opportunities for business growth and revenue are endless if you employ the right people and bring creativity and tenacity to the challenges presented. The secret lies in an iterative approach where a website is launched and monitored, and then optimized over time to maximize relevance and ROI.

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