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The 12 Cs for Thriving in a Digital World

  |  February 15, 2008   |  Comments

Twelve actionable ideas to grow audience, monetize digital assets, and improve digital operations.

As an online publisher, your day might go like this:

You wake up in the morning, pumped up and optimistic about this new digital world we live in and all the great opportunities it offers. You think about how you'll seize upon the promise of it all, engaging your customers in new ways; establishing deep, meaningful relationships with them; expanding your audience via community and viral campaigns; creating new user experiences that are compelling and differentiated from the competition; and ultimately hearing the virtual cash register cha-ching as you capitalize on the new digital revenue streams.

But by midday, reality sets in. You shake your head, feeling overwhelmed and somewhat scared about needing to deliver on the hype and promises you've made and keeping your online business in business. You secretly wonder if your company has what it takes to survive in a marketplace comprising an increasing number of competitors whom you've never heard of and who don't behave like you. You need to develop new content strategies that require things like metadata, taxonomies, entities, and relevance. Emerging technologies are way over your head; and you must consider new distribution and marketing options, like SEO (define), RSS, widgets, and social bookmarking. And let's not forgot all the organizational challenges you face with insufficient resources, lack of new media skills, and legacy organizational structures.

Plus, the rules of the game have been thrown out the window, and new rules are being created every day, often by your competitors and disruptive technologies.

To survive, nay, thrive in this digital world, you must have a digital strategy that integrates the key disciplines (i.e., content, marketing, technology, sales, business development, research, etc.) as well as a deep understanding of the details and how to execute them. You've got to be completely customer-centric and deliver a value proposition that's meaningful and embraced by your audience. You must welcome the new and experiment, but go in with eyes wide open. Invest in new technologies and new skills. Too often companies still work in silos, but with a cohesive strategy you'll be able to create a unique, compelling, and desirable Web experience for your audience and provide your advertisers and sponsors with highly targeted ad opportunities.

It's obviously very difficult to do this and there isn't a simple, fool-proof solution. But if you understand all the pieces and have a sound approach, you can develop a solid integrated strategy and action plan and execute them with confidence. With these in place, you'll feel better throughout the day and be more confident that you're on the road to thriving in this digital world.

This is where I hope to help.

This is my first column for ClickZ and I'm aiming to provide both strategic and very practical, actionable ideas to help you successfully grow audience, monetize digital assets, and improve digital operations.

Regardless of the type of online publisher you are, whether you're a consumer magazine or a B2B (define) publisher, whether you're advanced with your Web strategy or just starting out, I intend to provide some actionable takeaways.

I've organized my perspectives into a framework: the 12 Cs.

The 12 Cs for Thriving in the Digital Age

  • Customers. It's about more than just knowing who your audiences are; it's also about knowing what they want, what their needs are, and how their needs change and evolve as the number of options available to them grows every day, then delivering an online experience that allows them to easily complete their goals.

  • Clients. You need to deliver creative, flexible marketing solutions to your advertisers. Be their partner in helping them reach their goals.

  • Competitors. Many of your competitors don't look like you, they don't think like you, and their business motivations are different from yours. If you aren't on top of the different types of rivals you have, you'll get a rude awakening very soon.

  • Customer experience. It's all about personas, user-centric design, and a customized experience. I live in NYC, where the apartments are small. If I go to an interior design site to look for new appliances, I don't want to be bombarded with refrigerators made for a huge kitchen in a 5,000 square foot suburban house.

  • Content and tools. What's so special about your site? You've got to have a good mix of compelling content and interactive tools that benefit your customers.

  • Community. Remember, you don't create communities. You serve them. Be a good host and make sure you understand the needs of all the users in your community ecosystem: the posters, the reviewers, the lurkers, and more.

  • Commerce. So many revenue streams -- ads, sponsorships, premium content, e-commerce product sales, licensing revenue, revenue-sharing deals -- so little time.

  • Connections. You've got to make it convenient for your customers to connect with you and access your content. This includes search engines, widgets, RSS, social bookmarking, social news sites, syndication, and so on. You need to create multiple doorways to your content to reach a fragmented marketed.

  • Corporate. You hope you've got the right organization in place: the right skills, the right processes, and business and technology teams that get along. But you probably don't. Let's see how you can stop sabotaging yourself.

  • Core technology. You've got to embrace the technology and understand that it really can be a business driver and enable you to more rapidly create new products and deliver new services. But you've got to embrace technology, not fear it.

  • Collaboration. No company is an island. You've got content partners, technology vendors, and ad networks. Make sure you pick the right ones, but be ready if things go south.

  • Care. Companies say they want to hear from customers and the community, but they don't seem happy when they get customer service calls. Sure, customer service has a cost, but it can be a unique competitive advantage.
The 12 Cs

I'll be drilling into the 12 Cs in the coming weeks. I appreciate your joining me on this journey. Please send me your feedback and ideas on issues you'd like to hear about. I'm very customer-centric.

Best,

Lee Huang

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lee Huang

Lee Huang specializes in developing digital strategies that enable companies to monetize their digital assets, create innovative online products, and leverage emerging technologies to better serve their audience and advertisers. He is director of digital strategy and product development at NBC Universal. Before joining NBCU, he led the development of successful Internet strategies, Web sites, and interactive solutions for media and entertainment companies, including Billboard, Hearst, Scripps Networks, Hollywood Reporter, and Consumer Reports. Lee created The 12 Cs, a framework for thriving in the digital age that focuses on developing an integrated business and technology strategy, along with an adaptive infrastructure that enables rapid execution.

He serves on the board and leads the New York chapter of the Internet Strategy Forum, a professional association for executives who lead their company's Internet strategy and initiatives.

Lee lives in New York City. He can be reached at lhuang23@yahoo.com.

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