In his seminal book, Here Comes Everybody, The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, American writer Clay Shirky asserts that for the first time in history, communication is possible from many, to many.
In the past, communication to a large group excluded the possibility of having a conversation, and having a conversation meant not interacting with a group, but was necessarily a one-to-one structure.
This feature is one of the main reasons why the internet revolution is different from communication revolutions that preceded it. The second difference between the twentieth and twenty first-century communication revolution, Shirky states, is that all media is now digitised. This means that the internet encapsulates all forms of media from the past, and the medium itself has become the site of exchange, not just a means of exchange. Finally, the internet allows people to create content, which means the line between producers and consumers has become blurred.
"Media is no longer a product, it is not a production, it is not a box-office hit," says Jeff Jarvis, journalism professor at City University of New York.
And the commonly assumed corollary of all this for media producers rooted in print is that our traditional business models are dead or dying. As Nick Gillespie, editor-in-chief of reason.com and a former newspaper proprietor, colourfully contends: "I realised the age of print had passed when cheapskate customers on my paper round started telling me to go fuck myself and take that rag off their porches."
The challenge is undeniable. In a world of collaborative production and shared creation, of dynamic data, targeted commercial messaging through powerful social-media channels and ubiquity of access to information, entertainment and conversation via a plethora of devices, the days when a few could disseminate wisdom to the many – and charge for the privilege – would appear to be numbered.
And yet, at the very heart of this revolution is the way people organise themselves into communities of interest that are powerfully bonded by shared passions and interests. The curation of knowledge, along with the creation of compelling stories, conversations and ideas that galvanise these communities into action, is the skill-set that underpins the historic success of print publishers, particularly magazine publishers. Great magazines are a positive reflection of their communities: informative, helpful, inspirational, and, above all, the smart and eclectic voice of that community.
When recently a friend of mine took to Twitter and started a group in protest against fare rises and poor service for commuters on South West Trains, the exponential growth of her group was nothing to do with these wider issues but was all about finding commonality of voice and leading the community with clever invective and smart, entertaining and often funny ideas that galvanised action.
The establishment of a regular pastime called "Friday shoes", where commuters were invited to post pictures of the best shoes they had seen on their journey that morning and then vote for a winner, was a huge success. Hundreds of pictures were posted, people pledged money to charity for the winning shoes, and, ultimately, South West Trains itself contributed in response to the collective voice of its customers.
This successful enterprise was not about numbers or commercial engagement, it was about people being led by the smartest voice in their community and participating because they were informed and entertained. What they had in common was their similar, painful commute, but what brought them together was the unifying voice.
This is where publishing professionals can continue to make a difference. We know how to live deep in communities, how to articulate the things that really matter to these communities, and give them expression and leadership.
In the accompanying case study to this essay, we have demonstrated that by understanding the voice of the UK's HR community and giving it a different kind of magazine that tells stories that really matter to them, we can create a noise that extends far beyond the traditional print model and truly galvanises conversation and action through all the disparate channels at our disposal. And, because we can instantly demonstrate this success through data, there is a commercial dividend as well.
By understanding that what we do is not "print" but "create an authentic voice for communities of interest", we can successfully embrace a transformational world while remaining true to our heritage and our principles.
Simon Kanter, editorial director, Haymarket Network
Simon joined Haymarket Network as editorial director in early 1999. He has been responsible for overseeing the company's creative direction, including the conception and launch of titles such as the multi-award-winning Army magazine (now Camouflage) for the British Army, UEFA's Champions magazine, the creation of the IAAF's athletics youth brand SPIKES (and subsequent magazine and Tumblr website), and, most recently, the John Lennon Letters app for iOS.
Kanter was also part of the team that won the account as Locog's official programme publisher for London 2012, and led Haymarket Network's editorial team in the creation of the 53 products – 4176 pages of editorial sports content.
Relaunch of People Management magazine
Reader Liz Terry said of People Management: "Your formats, topics and overall approach get me ripping it out of the plastic every time it arrives." But this wasn't always the case.
People Management is the official magazine of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). With a monthly circulation of 134,000, it is the largest HR magazine in the country, but research showed it was not always hitting the mark for its core HR manager audience.
To make it more accessible for its large female constituency, the new-look PM took visual cues from women's magazines and mass-market publications, but the content remained as relevant as ever, with hard-hitting features tackling HR-related business and social issues, and pushed these into relevant digital media from the online Daily Bulletin through Twitter to LinkedIn.
Has the revamp worked? In every measurable sense it has. Reader feedback, through Twitter and LinkedIn, has been positive, display revenues and online recruitment are up (respectively 12% and 15% year on year), use of PM's online Daily Bulletin is up by 23%, Twitter followers are up by 22%, the LinkedIn group has grown 62%, PM website visits have increased 103% and Job Board visitors have risen by 52%, all since August 2012.
Read more: Content Marketing Case Studies