content creating, publishing

Another two bite the dust: Two very different victims of media wevolution as Encyclopedia Britannica and FHM Australia go down

EB&FHMEncyclopedia Britannica and FHM to cease publication (images via Guardian and Mumbrella)

news reached mediation last week of two very different publications that are set to cease print publication. at first there may seen to be little in common between the 244 year-old Encyclopedia Britannica and FHM – but they are both, in their very different ways, equal victims of media natural selection.

if we have ever needed evidence of the extent of the change that is afoot in our industry, it comes in the form of the fates of these two very different titles, both of which are victims of the impact of the social web.

the fact is that wikinomics killed the print edition of EB. Wikipedia is the primary symptom, but the cause is a great deal deeper.  EB print’s demise is a result of the fact that all of us are smarter than any of us, and now we have the tools to manifest that collective knowledge.

talking to The Guardian, president of Encyclopedia Britannica Inc Jorge Cauz counters that “We may not be as big as Wikipedia. but we have a scholarly voice, an editorial process, and fact-based, well-written articles … all of these things we believe are very, very important, and provide an alternative that we want to offer to as many people as possible”.  like many businesses, EB are looking to fight ‘free’, and win.

the same of which can probably be said for the demise of FHM in Australia.  much debate has been had on the Mumbrella thread, with everything from product quality to porn to blame. but the fact is that FHM face a very similar battle to EB – they’re fighting that fact that people are generating content, for free, that competes for the time and attention that men’s magazines used to enjoy from readers.

in the magazine sector’s case this is translating into very challenging times. the latest SMI figures (courtesy of Lucy) show that across all media, February ’12 was pretty much flat YOY (+0.7%). whilst key growth areas for Feb were Cinema – up an astonishing 83% YOY (YTD it’s up 32%) – and Digital, which is up 29%. by comparison Newspapers and Mags are down 12% and 15% respectively.

in the we-fuelled revolution (the wevolution if you like) brands and businesses that don’t quickly evolve are being taken down… in the same week that EB and FHM made their respective announcements; Twitter acquired Posterous, CNN was rumoured to be buying Mashable for upwards of US$200m, TED launched a education-based YouTube channel, LinkedIn hit 3m Australian members, The Australian announced that it has 30k paying digital subscribers and Hungry Jacks sold 485,332 burgers in a Scoopon deal that crashed the site, oh and a video called Kony 2012 became – with 100 million (yes that’s right) hits in six days, the most viral in history.

blink and you miss it people, blink and you miss it.

here’s the question: how is the wevolution affecting your brand and business? how prepared are you for the change that you may not yet have even seen coming? and how do you avoid the fate of EB and FHM?

advertising, printing, publishing, social media-ising

Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin: Lessons from The Guardian on getting, well, everything right

so I’ve been roused from a bit of a blogging famine (not self-imposed) by the surfacing of a rather remarkably brilliant bit of storytelling on two fronts by The Guardian. on one hand, the above is (nice one BBH) a wonderfully articulated ad showing what journalism looks like in the second decade of the 21st Century. the second element of storytelling however relates to The Guardian product itself – and this is where it gets a lot more interesting…

because whilst other newspaper titles have faced a digital-fuelled funding crisis by (delete as appropriate) building pay-walls around existing content / attacking aggregators such as Google / devaluing their brand with ongoing price promotions / bundling subscriptions / creating much-hyped tablet-only titles / add as appropriate – The Guardian has quietly gotten on with doing three things rather well.

one, they’ve developed genuinely channel and delivery-neutral platforms for their product. two, they’ve defended investment in content. three, they’ve introduced and demanded fair pricing for their product.

there are people better qualified than me (The Guardian themselves for one) to comment in more detail about the specifics and implications of these endeavours to their title and the wider journalism category.  what interests Mediation is how these three principles apply to brands per se. because those exact things that The Guardian has done so well should be top of the agenda for every brand and client right now.

one – channel and delivery-neutral platforms

for all our talk of bought earned and owned and platform neutrality, we still have some way to go to break the last remnants of the broadcast disruption advert model. ‘make an ad and get it seen’ is still for too many situations the default option.

our focus should be on a brand’s business challenge or opportunity, not on default bought media solutions. channel-neutral is now easily a decade-old idea, and it feels almost retro to talk about it with even a degree of reverence … but new pressures can fuel flights to perceived safety – flights that more than ever need guarding (appropriately enough) against.

two – investment in content

from podcasts (oh my beloved MediaGuardian podcast) to video to applications and beyond, The Guardian’s story is not just one of investing in content, but of investing in content despite a reduction in revenues as digital impacts cannibalised (traditionally more profitable) print impacts. there was no retreat, no back-pedaling, no compromise in the investment nor distribution of content.

here too brands can learn.  new models are more content hungry than old ones. in short they require much more than 30″‘s worth of content! longer-form video, multi-platform, often generated in real time and in response to a brand’s activities are essential if a brand is to capitalise on and exploit the opportunities that new models present. will it cost more? perhaps. will it return more? perhaps? will you get left behind if you don’t. absolutely.

three – fair pricing for that content

I’m not suggesting that brands start charging for people to engage with their communications (although Apple seem to do quite well in monetising the best ads they ever made in the form of a retail space that isn’t a retail space). rather brands need to acknowledge that for many people the old contract has evaporated…

the contract stated that in return for free content, a brand can interrupt that content as long as they entertain or inform us whilst they do it. for many this simply no longer plays, or indeed pays. The Guardian increasingly, I suspect, relies on a model not dissimilar to an iTunes set-up – simple easy small payments that allow people to access the content they want, when they want it, where they want it. many people are prepared to (micro) pay to do so.

brands face a similar challenge. what are the new contracts you can form with the people with whom you want to connect and engage. what are you offering in return for their attention? value, usefulness, entertainment, information, inspiration? to say that continuing to offer an interuption that communicates what your business believes people should know, hardly seems worth dignifying with a debate.

there’s two last things that brands can learn from The Guardian’s predominance in their field. firstly, let people in – whether its helping to devour MPs expenses data or teasing people to piece together a story that a super-injunction prevents them from reporting, The Guardian isn’t just better by having people be part of the debate, they are – just like brands – increasingly dependent on it.

and secondly, this reporter of fairy tales stands for something. as a brand, as an organisation, as a business, they understand why they exist in the world. they can articulate why the world needs them. and rather than telling people that, they show them…

there is no more powerful navigator for this new world than to have built into your DNA a compass telling you every day in every way which direction to take.

its tempting to say stop the world and ask to get off. to that, I say not by the hair on my chinny chin chin would I want it any other way …  keep up the good work Guardian.