28 February 2019 Share

digital innovation Marketing

Fluid, integrated and mixed: here’s the publishing industry of the future

The New York Times recently reported 700 million dollars in revenue just for its digital business. On the other hand, at a global level, revenue for the information industry is down in many countries, including Italy, as news publications struggle to interpret the current communication context in an economically sustainable way. How is the market for information evolving?

«This situation doesn’t surprise me and has very deep roots – says Giuliano Noci, professor of Strategy & Marketing at Politecnico di Milano’s School of Management and Vice Rector for China at the same university –. In the past some people thought that advertising alone could sustain an online business, a prediction that was proved wrong. At the same time, twenty years ago many publishers responded to the arrival of digital by cutting costs and lowering quality as a result. That turned out to be a mistake, because news today has become a commodity: news alone has no value, anyone can provide it. It was and is necessary to offer depth of analysis, the ability to interpret phenomena in the medium and long term. In the United States they have moved in this direction, increasingly strengthening the component of interpretation with respect to reporting of pure and simple current events and leveraging off the reputation that comes from the prestige of their brands».

The web hasn’t led to a lowering of quality, rather to a polarization between those who care only about price, and so look for free contents, and those who instead are looking for quality and are ready to pay for it.

 «Then there’s also an organizational aspect, on which Italy is particularly late – continues Professor Noci –. Delivering information today doesn’t only mean producing texts, but working from a multimedia perspective, which means centralized newsrooms instead of newsrooms separated from web activities».

At the base of the success of some publishing models there’s therefore also a rethinking of the relationship between digital means and “traditional” journalism, with an eye on greater integration between the two components.

In addition, we are witnessing a reversal in some workflows, with news that is produced directly for digital channels and the paper versions of newspapers that serve as a collection or “best of” the contents that appeared digitally even several days earlier.

Thus it’s not surprising that some iconic newspapers have been purchased and relaunched by big web entrepreneurs. Recently Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of Salesforce (the world’s leading CRM platform), and his wife announced the acquisition of the famous Time weekly. And behind the revival of The Washington Post there’s Jeff Bezos, founder of the famous e-commerce portal Amazon, who in 2013 took it over, full of debt, from the Graham family. And to those who asked him the reason for this purchase, Bezos answered that Internet destroyed most of the advantages that dailies had built up over time but offered them a gift: free global distribution. To benefit from that gift, Bezos implemented a new business model no longer based solely on high revenue per reader, but on the acquisition of a greater number of readers.

But does English language information also benefit from the large size of the audience and its different cultural predisposition?  «No – answers Giuliano Noci –. If Italian media survived twenty years ago, there’s no reason it can’t in the current environment, in which instead, if you know how to exploit it, there are prospects for greater growth. My experience with omnichannel sales leads may to say that the presumed immaturity of consumers is instead an inadequate offering, which over time ends up also negatively impacting demand.
If many publishers in Italy and in Europe are in trouble, it’s because they are not up to manoeuvring the changes underway in society and don’t offer something that is perceived as being of value».

Digital is growing, but according to R&S Mediobanca data, 91.6% of worldwide publishing turnover still comes from print media.  What’s more, publishers that are solely digital like Buzzfeed have announced cuts, while many new publishing products are born in a mixed print-digital form.  Professor Giuliano Noci comments: «Today the mixed model prevails, because people prefer to use media in a mixed manner.
Both digital and print fundamentalists are wrong. All the most recent studies tell us that consumption behaviours must be segmented not based on individuals, but on the life context in which they’ve found themselves. So, there’s not the person who under all conditions prefers to be informed by the radio, TV, web or by reading a newspaper, but everyone, depending on the moment of the day or the situation in which they find themselves, favours one or the other means. Behaviours are very fluid and can be intercepted only by an equally fluid offering».








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