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Survival tactics for print publishers in the digital world

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Like someone walking the streets with a sandwich board proclaiming ‘The End is Nigh’, those who believe traditional journalism is in terminal decline, with print media no longer a viable source of revenue, refuse to be swayed from their doom-laden view.And sure, media owners face challenges on multiple fronts: readers have become accustomed to consuming content for free, brands are slashing advertising budgets and media agencies are exerting a downward pressure on the cost of ads.Those are significant challenges, but they aren’t insurmountable. I don’t need to contact my inner Darwin to state that those media owners that successfully adapt to the new environment will survive, because I’ve seen it first-hand. There’s little doubt that operating as if nothing has changed in a markedly different media landscape will be a recipe for failure.It’s when innovative media owners begin to act more like brand owners, however, that they find new ways to strengthen relationships with audiences, create new sources of revenue and enhance their overall brand. The future will be characterised by successful publishers becoming more commercially minded, while e-commerce companies begin to blur the lines between content and commerce.One of our clients, Hearst’s Elle magazine, is the world’s biggest-selling fashion title, but that success hasn’t bred complacency. Responding to the shifting landscape W supported Elle on becoming far more than a print publication. It not only has offerings across online, mobile and iPad, but has its own style awards and travel guides, collaborated with the National Portrait Gallery and British Film Institute and unveiled a series of tailor-made beauty products to celebrate its 25th birthday.Journalism might well be under pressure, but media owners that combine creative with commercial thinking to broaden the way they reach audiences can significantly boost revenue. Perhaps as importantly, they can also establish a halo effect that enhances the profile and strengthens the credibility of their traditional print offering. Additionally, they can realise the value of their readers – a more engaged audience of brand fans can become powerful advocates for exciting partnerships and product tie-ins.Another client, international dance magazine, Mixmag, has not only managed to address how traditional print titles can be profitable in the digital age, but is also tackling how musicians can successfully monetise music in an age of downloads and streaming.It is achieving this through the Mixmag Media Network, which matches brands and bands to create native advertising content on YouTube, tapping into the global surge in popularity of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and underlining Mixmag’s status as the most credible source of information on dance talent.Similarly, the Evening Standard, the leading London newspaper, today creates “Business Connections” - a paid-for event where inspirational entrepreneurs share their success stories and field questions from an engaged audience, underlining the role the Evening Standard plays in providing Londoners with the latest business insight.If there’s another market in the world where we could expect media owners to thrive through a similar fusing of creativity and commercial aptitude, it’s Singapore. What better place for publishers to succeed in the new environment than in a country long recognised as one of the world’s most important markets, which is building on its business and financial roots to become a key cultural and media centre.The end might be nigh for publishers that refuse to move with the times. The opportunity for media owners to get creative, truly engage their audiences and maximise their value, however, is a different story. That’s something that’s just beginning.The author is Warren Johnson, founder and CEO of PR and creative marketing agency, W Communications.

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