What Condé Nast could have learned from Meredith Publishing, iVillage, MTV's Guarida Azul, and Belo Interactive.
A couple of weeks ago, following the announcements about the shuttering of Condé Nast's "Gourmet," along with five other properties in the past year, Ad Age gave credit to Meredith Publishing for its adoption of a digital strategy in comparison with Condé Nast's relative lack of one. In this column, I'll discuss tools I've had the opportunity to work with recently, with a particular focus on publishing and media.
As a disclosure, I worked with Meredith Publishing in 2005 and 2006 on the development of its digital strategy. Meredith, building around the efforts of Senior Social Media Manager Laura Pinneke (formerly with Target) has implemented solutions across 20 magazine properties built primarily on the Pluck platform. In addition -- put this under the "no sleep for the weary" heading -- the publisher continues to evaluate and implement other tools from companies such as Ripple6 and Lithium.
Around the corner from Pluck in my hometown of Austin, TX, is Powered. It provides a publisher's platform as well: take a look at iVillage, for example, and its iLearn community. It's full of the kinds of activities that bind active families (moms, in particular) to the online community. This element was missing in the case of "Gourmet." While an exceptional print product, as online continues to press its relevance into the daily lives of media consumers (think smart handsets and netbooks here), the lack of a participative, digital expression for a media property is a strike against it, if not a guaranteed "out." Kudos to iVillage for building this capability into its platform.
MTV's Latin American programs have recently launched on another platform I've been involved with since 2005. Based in Buenos Aires, Looppa provides a community platform with a unique feature that's important when "sub-communities" are a part of the design and business requirements. Consider the language, location, and cultural issues around multinational community implementations: Looppa provides a built-in community integration that connects distinct communities through a larger Web across multiple properties. This provides an intimate experience inside the smaller communities -- think Facebook groups here -- while still wrapping the entire experience in a larger platform and community. MTV's Guarida Azul, launched at the end of September, has quickly broken the 100,000 registered member mark with strong participation and content sharing, based on the use of Looppa tools.
I was talking with Belo Interactive President Dave Ellett (former CEO of Powered) last week about Blastoff, an affiliate program launched about two months ago. As an innovation point, Dave noted that Blastoff is potentially useful for publishers on multiple fronts. I've included it here because it's a great example on two distinct points. First, Blastoff offers some well thought out hooks for publishers: news and information channels, advertising opportunities that lead into the affiliate mall, and an in-road into a new online demographic for Belo in particular. Second, it's an example of innovative thinking that's required to stay ahead. What do a newspaper publisher and an affiliate marketer have in common? Offhand, I don't know, but I do know this: Dave Ellett will dig in and figure it out, and Belo will beat its competitors to the punch as a result. Dave works hard to convert what he finds into a competitive advantage in the context of his business. That's a best practice worth noting.
Tying the above together is one of the strategic points offered by blogger Jeff Jarvis: "Take yourself to them." In the case of Powered's iVillage and Belo's look at Blastoff, for example, the publishers are taking the content that they have and moving it out to where there customers are. This is an essential practice when building powerful social applications.
In simple terms, it comes down to "fishing where the fish are" rather than simply hoping they'll decide to hang around your boat. (They won't.) A strong Web presence is a building block, but by itself, isn't sufficient for marketing (online) to highly connected customers. A community built around your brand might be part of the answer, but your brand is generally not enough. The smart (and too often missing) aspect is to add the social applications available through, for example, the Pluck platform, and then tie them into Facebook and Twitter. Alternately, build around the connected communities built on Looppa or the integrated content offered by Powered. In the end, there are a number of ways to create an engaging experience. Here's a quick summary:
Combine these basic points with continuous learning and experimentation to bring new technology into the planning process today and you're on your way. As a publisher, that's got to have a pleasant ring to it.
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Dave is the VP of social strategy at Lithium. Based in Austin, Dave is also the author of best-selling "Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day," as well as "Social Media Marketing: The Next Generation of Business Engagement." Dave is a regular columnist for ClickZ, a frequent keynoter, and leads social technology and measurement workshops with the American Marketing Association as well as Social Media Executive Seminars, a C-level business training provider.
Dave has worked in social technology consulting and development around the world: with India's Publicis|2020media and its clients including the Bengaluru International Airport, Intel, Dell, United Brands, and Pepsico and with Austin's FG SQUARED and GSD&M| IdeaCity and clients including PGi, Southwest Airlines, AARP, Wal-Mart, and the PGA TOUR. Dave serves on the advisory boards for social technology startups including Palo Alto-based Friend2Friend and Mountain View-based Netbase and iGoals.
Prior, Dave was a co-founder of social customer care technology provider Social Dynamx, a product manager with Progressive Insurance, and a systems analyst with NASA| Jet Propulsion Labs. Dave co-founded Digital Voodoo, a web technology consultancy, in 1994. Dave holds a BS in physics and mathematics from the State University of New York/ Brockport and has served on the Advisory Board for ad:tech and the Measurement and Metrics Council with WOMMA.
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