Has the 'publisher' role become outmoded?

Is it time to banish the 'P' word from the increasingly platform-agnostic media world, Alasdair Reid wonders.

In recent years, Future has made laudable efforts to live up to its name. After all, it was formerly known as Future Publishing - but it quietly dropped the latter half of its handle when it wholeheartedly embraced the notion that it must evolve beyond its print heritage.

Last week, Future went one step further when Mark Wood, the chief ex­ecutive, declared the "publisher" word was henceforth to be removed from all job titles too. The descriptor is, he argued, now terribly outmoded.

He added: "[This initiative reflects] our repositioning away from a platform-focused structure to a more audience-based approach. Our business leaders have a far broader remit to drive audience and revenue growth across a full range of platforms and touchpoints - including events, video, e-commerce and mobile."

In some respects, Future is in good company where the whole fit-for-purpose digital rebranding debate is concerned. To name but two of the more obvious print-sector examples, IPC Magazines became IPC Media in the wake of its acquisition by Time Warner and Associated Newspapers likes to be known (formally, if not informally) as DMG Media these days.

Likewise, the Newspaper Marketing Agency rebranded as the platform-agnostic Newsworks in 2012 and the magazine medium's equivalent, the Professional Publishers Association, became simply the PPA.

Future's business-card rejig is, you could suppose, just another step along an evolutionary path, not just for the company but for the industry as a whole.

On the other hand, one might argue that the initiative smacks of terrible insecurity. Future last week reported group revenues of £76.2 million between 1 October 2012 to 30 June 2013, a 1 per cent lift year on year. Digital revenues climbed 24 per cent during the period, but the company admitted trading was below expectations in the three months to June. Senior management are "not satisfied with the pace of improvement", so perhaps this latest move is a wheeze to move the narrative along.

So, is Future right to attempt to eradicate all references to the "P" word?

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