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Publishing for the Future – Fuzzier Than the Dice on a Rearview Mirror?

  |  August 19, 2011   |  Comments

How do you build a strategy for success in publishing for four different generations that will be booming 10 years from now?

Have you ever seen one of those signs that points to all of the different directions at one time? Sometimes, that is what I start to picture when I think about how a content publisher is going to remain successful 10 years from now.

This is why:

Today's world has four active generations of media consumers:

The baby boomers: They have disposable income and time. They have a keen interest in the news as their retirement and social security is potentially at risk in the near future. They need to keep up with the latest trends, as well as with their busy family. Many of them have adopted technology (like the iPad) in order to enable them to stay connected. That said, they are still from a generation where print ruled the world.

Gen X: These are the middle-aged working population. Managing extended families, a declining economy, and rapidly changing technology, much of which is now required for their children at school. They yearn for technology that supports simplicity. How can I get more things done faster and better than I have in the past? They grew up writing "C+" code as a first step and then living through the debut of the Internet. They love flash, and being entertained. Truly a mixed bag, they marry old-school with new-world reading habits.

The millennials (Gen Y): Their life is online, even though many of them were not born into the online realm. That said, they grew up in it. They are the Facebook generation. For them, it's all about creating the best story, and sharing stories visually through imagery. The more open and social they can be, the better. Consuming, well, everything online is the way to go. And device choice doesn't really matter as much, as long as the return is high fidelity, high engagement, and highly shareable.

Gen Z (also known as Generation M for multi-taskers): These are truly the first generation of digital natives. Ubiquitous access is key. If you can't see it on your Android, iPod, and refrigerator at the same time, it's worthless. There is still a good bit to learn about this generation, but early findings (see this study) suggest this segment may privatize themselves a bit. Kind of of like the "me generation" of the 80's - just digitally.

These four generations paint a picture of media consumption that is vastly different from each other. It becomes a fascinating challenge to determine how to build a strategy for success that will be not just sustainable, but booming in 10 years from now.

If you are in the position where you need to define strategic direction based on media consumption trends, consider these thought-provoking questions when building your plan:

  • If the boomers have the most disposable income now, is the short-term strategy set to cater to them, with an evolution plan for more interactive elements?
  • If the millennials are the most socially vocal, is the short-term strategy more successful if you cater to them since they can assist in building brand equity?
  • If the Gen Zers are the digital natives, what R&D is your company doing to create that native UI/experience?
  • Through all of this, what role will email play, as the only digital unique identifier that plays across all platforms and access points?
  • Does the form of content change over the years to accommodate for it being as compelling to digest on your refrigerator screen as your large flat-panel TV? Does it change now?

We are still at the early stages of the digital revolution, yet in a race to catch up with the natives who are now in their teens.

What will you do to reach the finish line first?



Jeanniey Mullen

Jeanniey Mullen is the vice president of marketing at NOOK by Barnes and Noble, focused on business growth and customer acquisition. 

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