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Publishers take steps to remain relevant in a converging world

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Media executives at the Western Publications Association's 2008 Publishing Conference in Los Angeles last month shared strategies on how to succeed in a world of convergence. “Contextual relevancy still reigns supreme when it comes to connecting with an audience,” said Mike Kisseberth, CEO of IDG's PC World and MacWorld, during an industry leader panel. “It starts with a unique brand voice,” he said, noting that media companies need to establish an authentic brand that comes from having authority in an industry and providing relevant content to readers. Kisseberth said that while most of this content is still going to come from the editorial staff, publishers need to make more of an effort to solicit feedback and contributions from their readers, using social media and other tactics to turn them into brand champions. Another topic brought up during the industry leader discussion was the future of print. “We believe strongly in print,” said Efrem Zimbalist III, president-CEO of Active Interest Media. However, he added that in 10 years he could envision the company's publications being delivered over electronic readers, such as Amazon.com's Kindle device. “That doesn't fundamentally change the magazine business—it just changes the platform on which it's delivered,” Zimbalist said. “An evolution of the industry will take place.” Media execs agreed that this evolution of the industry is putting a strain on resources. “One of the problems with the new paradigm in publishing is that you make the editors do twice as much as before but you don't give them any more staff,” said John Bethune, VP-editorial at Canon Communications, during a workshop entitled “Power Marketing Online.” “Nowadays, with the way publishing is going, particularly online, if you don't have good content, no matter how you market it, it won't do you any good,” he added. Bethune discussed various online initiatives that Canon has launched, including e-newsletters, webcasts, blogs and subscription-based data services. PharmaLive, Canon's Web site targeting the pharmaceutical industry, publishes 10 e-newsletters a week. Revenue from ads in e-newsletters is four times that of ad sales revenue from the Web site, Bethune said. “You have to develop a large amount of high-quality content and get your brand spread around,” he said. Julie Tinney, VP-sales and marketing at Wells Publishing, discussed tactics the 85-year-old company has taken to expand its online business. Wells publishes five regional magazines for its flagship Insurance Journal brand, as well as four Web sites, five e-newsletters, several directories, custom video and webcasts for clients. “It's all about getting more clicks,” Tinney said. She gave some examples of how Wells generates user interest and engagement with its Web properties, including online surveys (such as a salary survey), linking to stories from e-newsletters, promoting webcasts and providing users the opportunity to give feedback on stories in discussion forums. “The ability to comment on your news is very important,” Tinney said.
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