Monday, January 29, 2007

Meeting Recap, Part 1: Manage your brand to thrive in online revolution

Brand stewards, although their job titles might say editor, may lead the online revolution in business-to-business publications. Cameron Bishop, president and chief executive officer of Ascend Media in Overland Park, Kan., offered the term and the prediction when he spoke Jan. 17 at a Kansas City chapter meeting of the American Society of Business Publication Editors titled “Trends in B2B Publishing.”

“You are brand stewards,” he told the editors. “You are no longer editors of a magazine. You are managers of a brand.”

Bishop said the title of editor may be outdated. He added the American Society of Business Publication Editors even should consider changing its name.

“I would submit to you that that title is antiquated,” he said of the editor title. “I would submit to you that you all begin to call yourselves directors of content or content managers or content creators. Our business today is about the creation and dissemination of content. It is not about editing a magazine. It is far more than that.”

Bishop defined another term: media agnostic. No longer does content appear solely in print magazines.

“Media agnostic is what we are about today in the creation of content,” he said. Ascend Media delivers content through many outlets — print products, online outlets, e-mal newsletters, wireless handheld PDA devices and various shows and conferences.

The multiple mediums can offer advertising opportunities. Annual growth of 8 percent to 10 percent was common in print publication advertising in the late 1990s, he said, but it’s now fallen to 1 percent to 2 percent.

“The (advertising) budgets are the same, but dollars are being allocated in different ways, and most of those dollars are going online,” he said. Ascend Media saw 500 percent growth in online revenue in 2006, he added.

During the online transformation, editors/brand stewards need to think differently in several areas, Bishop said. Not only should they know the circulation of their publications, they also need to know their websites’ traffic numbers.

“If you don’t know the traffic statistics of your website, you’re not doing part of your job,” Bishop said.

Bishop has challenged Ascend Media to have video capability, such as podcasts, on all its websites within the year. He wants to equip every editorial team with a digital video camera, which he compared to micro cassette recorders. Whereas decades ago reporters began carrying recorders with them for interviews, now they can take digital video cameras.

Editors also should find ways to use print publications to promote the websites. They can put a table of contents for the online product inside the print product.

“Your print product is a promotional vehicle for your Internet product,” Bishop said. “If you don’t choose to think of it as such, then shame on you.”

Thought also should be given to archived content, said Phil Musser, publisher of Transmission & Distribution World, who also spoke at the Kansas City chapter meeting. Transmission & Distribution World, based in Overland Park, Kan., and a publication of Prism Business Media, contracts out content.

“We’re going back now and tagging content,” Musser said. “We’ve got nine years of feature content on the websites. To be able to sell content categories, we’ve got to put it in the right bucket and have the right association.”

Finding veterans for advice on all these online topics could prove difficult, Bishop said.

“There are no experts because it’s all too new,” he said. “It’s a highly entrepreneurial world we’re in today. We’re making it up as we go along.”

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