You’re probably sitting somewhere right now – in a cafe, at your desk, on the Tube – reading this article in your beautifully printed copy of Campaign. And I expect it’s doing a pretty good job of giving you an update on what has been happening across the industry over the past week and helping you stay informed on what your colleagues, peers and competitors are up to.
But just have a think for a second. How much longer do you think you’ll be doing this? How much longer will you be reading Campaign in its printed form? How much longer will Campaign exist in print at all? And, more importantly, how much longer will the Campaign product bear any resemblance to what it does right now, in any form?
Until relatively recently, magazine publishers avoided jumping into digital for fear of following the newspaper industry into a world wide web of devalued content and massive downward price pressure on advertising. Only in the past couple of years have they decided to first dip their toes in and now, as the tablet market really takes off, to seriously get to grips with digital.
It’s now more important than ever for publishers to properly evolve and transform their product rather than simply create a digital version of the existing printed page. This isn’t just an exercise in redesign – we need to think about whether a traditional cover-to-cover periodical publishing model in any format really makes sense in the new world.
It made complete sense before: find a niche subject area, aggregate content from many disparate sources and pull them together to create a consumer product that is substantial enough to warrant being designed, branded, printed, distributed and sold at a decent margin to a grateful reader. Someone willing to walk into their local newsagent every week, browse and leaf through the wonders on offer until they found their perfect partner and parted with their
hard-earned cash in order to acquire it and take it home. And, once read, it would be carefully put on display with its predecessors, thus allowing the reader to exhibit to the world a sense of their character and good taste.
But we’re in a different world now. We get what we want, when we want it. We don’t expect to wait. We don’t expect to pay. We have the attention span of a small child and we like our content in bite-sized chunks. We simply don’t respect old media any more. Here’s an example: last week, Jonny went to Heathrow to meet a friend flying in from Los Angeles and, when he arrived, Terminal 3 was manic. His first thought was that there must have been a security alert, because the terminal was completely packed with hordes of confused-looking people. He then realised that the crowd was almost entirely made up of teenage girls (the only other demographic represented was a spattering of fatigued and somewhat nervous fathers). When he asked who they were waiting for, he was told "The Janoskians". He had to ask three times before someone explained it to him (we’re not going to explain it to you – Google them).
What struck us about this was that the event was not mentioned on the news, it was not covered in any newspaper or magazine, and yet there were more than 1,500 people there, waiting for The Janoskians at exactly the right time to meet them as their plane arrived.
How did they do it? The Janoskians simply Tweeted their impending arrival from the plane a few hours before they landed. It took them a few seconds to generate a near-riot at Heathrow Airport. Try doing that in a magazine. And what’s even more telling is how anyone even knows about The Janoskians in the first place. Their product exists almost uniquely on YouTube and has a global following despite limited involvement with traditional media.
But there is good news. When it comes down to it, great content will always hold an extremely valuable place in the new economy – you just need to work out how to make it pay for you.
So, what’s the answer? Fundamentally, it’s about stripping everything down to that thing that sits at the heart of your brand and keeps people coming back to you, then building it up again in order to create a relevant product that is designed specifically for the future. This is crucial.
As a publisher or a brand, as you think about your mobile strategy, you must start from scratch. A blank sheet (not of paper). Do not try to simply recreate your print product or print campaign in digital form. Get to the DNA and start again. Bring in the experts, sit in a room, thrash out some ideas, test them with your audience, get something to market quickly and continually test and enhance your product, and be prepared to evolve it at a rate that you never thought possible or practical. And invest in the future. Don’t be cheap. Digital may not make up the lion’s share of your revenues today, but it will in five years. So you’d better be prepared.
Point of View
The most recent app we’ve bought is… Paper by FiftyThree.
A great mobile site is… tailored not merely to the size of a device, but to where we are and what we are doing when we are holding it.
Our next phones will be… able to last a day without recharging.
A mobile ad we like is… the Rolex interactive watch in The Week by Matchbox.
Jonny Kaldor is the chief executive and Jon Marks is the chief technology officer at Kaldor