Media: Double Standards - How to turn quality print titles into quality brands

Zach Leonard and Anna Jones on the future for print titles, charging for online content and the opportunities presented by the emergence of new digital channels.

ZACH LEONARD - managing director digital, i, The Independent and London Evening Standard

- What does your job involve and how many titles do you represent?

I manage all commercial aspects of digital publishing for The Independent, i and the Evening Standard, including verticals such as Homes & Property and mobile (smartphone, iPhone/iPad) channels. Our opportunity as a privately owned, nimble publisher is to lead our digital development from a consumer perspective, pursuing only those things that are commercially viable. With brilliant brands and editorial content, we can punch well above our weight.

- Is the age of print media dead and, if not, how do you see the dynamic between print and digital evolving?

Newspaper brands are more alive in 2010 than ever through multiple digital channels: mobile/tablet, social media and, of course, websites. It's incredibly exciting to see so much competitive innovation and experimentation across press, mobile subscriptions, site pay-walls and freemium. Clients are demanding more creativity and cross-media solutions, which are real strengths for the Standard and Independent/i. Successful print publishers recognise that there is a difference between being a great newspaper or magazine, and being a great brand.

- How do you currently monetise what you do online?

We have four primary revenue streams: advertising, e-commerce, subscription services and syndication.

Each has multiple sub-streams, as well as affinity and partnership elements. Diversity is key to long-term profitability. One brilliant trend is that digital advertising has come of age through search, performance, contextual and behavioural tools, where optimising each is a science that only a few publishers have mastered. Sponsorship and cross-media solutions have been around for a decade, but building those from the consumer perspective, considering print, digital and mobile touchpoints, is what sets us apart. Below all of this, however, is high-quality, must-have content with focus - critical for search and, therefore, monetisation.

- Do you think that it is possible to introduce pay-walls when people have been getting content free online for years?

Without doubt - so long as enough real and perceived value is delivered to the user, be it proprietary expert content, convenience, currency and portability or brilliant design. Hopefully, all of those combined. Outside of our press industry, Apple's iTunes and App Store - as well as PayPal and others - make it extremely easy to buy and upgrade products. It will happen that those processes become the norm for quality content services as well.

- What initiative are you most proud of?

Most recently, helping to launch i as a platform-neutral, modern news brand; and, more generally, being a catalyst for digital change for some of the best journalistic brands in Britain: the Financial Times, The Times and now The Independent and the Standard.

ANNA JONES - digital and strategy director, Hachette Filipacchi

- What does your job involve and how many titles do you represent?

I oversee the digital department at Hachette Filipacchi and am therefore responsible for all our web businesses, including Elleuk.com, Digitalspy.co.uk, Sugarscape.com, Insidesoap.co.uk, Psychologies.co.uk and the soon-to- be-launched Redonline.co.uk. I also work with the board and our editors on the overall strategy for our company and brands - this includes developing our print titles Elle, Red, Elle Decoration, Psychologies, Sugar, Inside Soap and All About Soap, as well as our spin-off titles. My background is in print and marketing, which puts me in a useful position at board level to develop strategy across both our print and digital brands.

- Is the age of print media dead and, if not, how do you see the dynamic between print and digital evolving?

I don't believe the age of print media is dead. Consumers want media brands to be available on multiple platforms so that the content they love, from the brands they trust, is available at their convenience. Reading your favourite monthly glossy in the bath at home is a very different experience to walking down a busy street with your mobile in your hand catching up on the latest headlines. We are committed to offering our consumers and our advertisers an experience of our brands in the location and formats that suit them.

- How do you currently monetise what you do online?

We monetise our websites mainly through advertising but, increasingly, we are offering our users access to goods and services that we feel will appeal to them and we hope to grow revenues in this area further in the coming year.

- Do you think that it is possible to introduce pay-walls when people have been getting content free online for years?

It is extremely difficult to ask people to pay for something they are used to getting free of charge. There is a place for paid content as part of a value package for consumers - for example, a bundled multi-platform deal - but they have to receive extra value, not simply the same as before but with a price tag attached. I think there is a place for paid services but, currently, we do not intend to charge for the content on our websites.

- What initiative are you most proud of?

I am hugely proud of everything we have achieved in digital over the past few years. It has moved from an investment to a profit centre that now sits alongside our incredibly strong print brands. The fact that we now have a more digital cultural dynamic within the company has also given everyone a new perspective on working for a media company. Specifically, the work we have done on Digital Spy since acquiring it in 2008 has seen its monthly unique users grow from five million to in excess of eight million. The work we have done on Elle in terms of social media means we are now the most-followed women's magazine brand in the UK and we believe Redonline.co.uk will take the luxury lifestyle experience online to a new level.

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