Earlier this week, we announced that multimedia publishing veteran Adam Burnham joined Affinity Express as vice president of interactive services. I was fortunate to meet him in person and had an opportunity to ask him some of the same questions many of you are asking yourselves and your colleagues about the industry, transitioning to digital services providers and models that work. Here is what we talked about.
What are the top challenges and/or obstacles for publishers as they work to transition from print only to multi-media publishing?
The economics of the business are in a constant state of transition. The classified business has retracted to become a small minority of revenue for publishers and the future of legals and preprints are in question now. Publishers have to be ready to adapt their business to what their audience and to what their advertisers want. I am in no way suggesting print will disappear; as I do not think that will be the case. But it will be a different business. I fear those who are unwilling to adapt may not survive.
What ideas or approaches have you seen work to ease this transition?
The good news is there are a number of companies taking very innovative steps and trying new things. That is the best practical approach because, if any one company had it figured out, everyone else would be copying the model. But at the core, you have to sell advertisers things they want to buy. I believe those publishers that are constantly feeding the sales organization new products and platforms, and are willing to find success through experimentation with a fail fast mentality, will be the most successful. I typically find the smaller the company, the more fluid and dynamic it can be. The digital agency concept is sweeping the publishing business but few are fully committed to it. Companies need to start thinking about what they are today and envision what they will be tomorrow. Then they should build plans accordingly.
Which digital services are being embraced earliest by SMBs and why?
I would say there are two main categories: search engine marketing (SEM) and digital services. Small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are dedicating a significant part of their overall expense budgets (not just marketing) to building out dynamic solutions and customer acquisition models online. Those publishers offering website design and development, coupled with search engine optimization, pay per click, maps and social solutions are able to get in front of virtually any business. And this is what SMBs want to talk about first. You can then layer on additional marketing opportunities across all platforms. But they need this foundation.
Is it more effective to offer standalone services or packaged offerings and why?
The more comprehensive the offerings, the better they are for SMBs when it comes to time, price and relationship. Spreading money across multiple channels doesn't allow them to properly lever their total marketing spend to get the best possible pricing. Plus, publishers that can look to offer more than just one or two platforms, will find the relationship with the SMBs will be richer and last longer.
What is the advantage multimedia publishers have in local markets as compared to pure plays and other offerings?
Multimedia publishers have the single most important advantage: an established, in-market sales force with existing relationships and a local brand. This above anything else distinguishes them from any pure play competitor.
How do multimedia publishers have to think about their audiences now versus five or ten years ago?
They have to think in terms of total audience as opposed to individual segments. The reach of a local publisher is greater than it has ever been when you combine print, online, mobile and social channels. Offering a collective solution with robust targeting capabilities is a huge opportunity.
How can publishers prepare their teams for this transition and train them to up-sell the additional services?
They need to take action. Stop talking about what you want to do and stop discussing what you can't do. Focus on what you CAN and WILL do. Hire specialists to work with the existing sales staff that also will cultivate new business on their own. Remove complacency from the current sales organization and look to serve the market as a whole. Stop constricting yourself by what you don't know.
In your experience helping Digital First Media turn the company around, did anything surprise you when working to drive digital growth and launch new platforms and services?
I would not call it a surprise, but more of a challenge. You walk a fine line of being aggressive and driving change versus taxing the bandwidth of the local sales organization. I think you can only fit so much on one plate and it takes time for things to really click. Make sure you have proper support functions in place so sales people can sell.
What's the best advice you could offer to publishers eager to offer digital services to their advertisers?
You can build the best solution, create the best marketing material, have the best training and sell the hell out of it. But if you cannot fulfill it, you will fail. Be overly-prepared to support the sales effort and partner with companies that are strong where you are weak. What questions would you want to ask Adam? Do you have any perspective on helping publishers transition from print-only to multi-channel? What tactics or approach have worked?
About Adam Burnham
As vice president of interactive for Affinity Express, Adam focuses on digital product mix, workflow and fulfillment solutions, helping drive both top and bottom line improvement. Previously, he led the digital first sales strategy at Journal Register Company and Digital First Media; driving industry leading growth rates since January 2010. Adam runs at a very aggressive pace to capture larger shares of marketing dollars with businesses of all sizes; local, regional and national. He specializes in growing revenue in both traditional and non-traditional ways, as well as in developing and integrating defined sales strategies.