DPInnovation BLOG

Digital Publishing Innovation and David McKnight

Category Archives: Content Strategy

O’Reilly – Tools of Change for Publishing: A viable option for ebooks and direct ebook business


Member Engagement through Content Strategy.

End silos, coordinate efforts across all groups – marketing, membership, publications, events.

Building on Online Publishing Platform to engage and monetize information.

Don’t build what you want…deliver what members want.

Provide eBook solutions without all the conversion costs and distribution revenue sharing required by Amazon and other major Online Proprietary Solutions.


O’Reilly – Tools of Change for Publishing: “A level of unmediated control that empowers publishers (Associations) to be responsive to market feedback, and encourages them to take ownership of user relationships.  These are exactly the habits that publishers need to develop in order to build successful digital businesses, and exactly the habits Tizra does a great job of supporting.”


Tizra’s web-based publishing platform


Full Post here


Innovation in Digital Publishing…Starts Here —> Marketing!!!

Clearly there are a number of digital media publishing ideas to chase and some to embrace.  Several new products and opportunities exist to improve workflow to save money and create new products (see the circle).   All of the options can be overwhelming!  So where should you focus…tools, technology, media, or all of the above.  My suggestion is to focus on MARKETING.

OK, why am I talking about marketing for bringing innovation to digital publishing?  Because that is how you connect to a wider audience.  I have worked with few Associations or Publishers that are not already creating great content.  Content that exists in multiple media.  Content that if more people find out about it more people will join their community.  Many are also investing in workflow too.   But none of this happens without marketing.

I’m not alone in this thinking.  Check out the Scholarly Kitchen (a site focused on Scholarly publishing) recent blog post New Media and New Markets — Making Sense of the Possibilities in Publishing. In  post he does a great job of talking about innovation in publishing from three categories:

  • Subtractive – change that lowers revenue
  • Substitutive – takes an existing revenue stream and replicates it with an innovation
  • Additive – leads to growth

It’s critical to have a strategic perspective of you digital publishing efforts.  The blog post concludes with “The real innovation for digital media is not in technology or in enhancing products. The real innovation is in marketing. The successful publisher is one that can study new technologies and see the inherent marketing opportunities before others do. Management is foresight, first and always.

For marketing however, using social media, email, websites, cold or warm calling are all required…but can be a slow and expensive process.   So what is the key…your content itself.   Unleash your content…make it highly discoverable.  Highly search able.  Highly relevant to the visitors on your website.   Highly shareable.

Now, I did not use the word “free” although aspects of your content distribution strategy should include “free” content…free access.  But capturing value is required to be sustainable.

Your PubCMS (Publishing Content Manage System) should provide you with ways to effectively manage content make it highly discoverable, searchable and relevant to you visitor.   If it can not…you may not be using a PubCMS but a website CMS which simply manages pages on a website….not a publishing solution.   You should also be thinking of XML and at least a path to get there.

I’ve said it before and will again…Associations and Publishers are in a race…the winners won’t be the only ones with great content (hopefully most are) but instead the winners will embrace innovation by getting their content read.   Are you?

Is the Value of Your Content Decaying?

It should not be much of a surprise to most of you that the value of published content declines once it’s published.   In a few rare cases the content can grow legs, go viral, and increase in value but most does not.

What may sound even worse is that the half-life value of most published content is zero.   Suggesting your content is rapidly decaying the minute it hits air.

This is true for both printed and digital content.  Digitizing content doesn’t on it own increase value without one key ingredient – Discoverability.

By Discoverability I mean using methods and process to increase the likelihood that a piece of information, content, can be found – discovered online – and hence give value to a reader.   SEO (Search Engine Optimization) helps but aS a publisher you have far greater value – the rich content itself.  SEO may be effective for your local retailer… what Google, Bing and others want is content.  The more discoverable, read and shared…the faster search engine bring your content to the top of the search engines.   You can buy your way there WITH SEO but your content keeps you at the top.

The key is a new kind of online Content Management System (CMS) designed for online publishing…I call it a PubCMS.  Trust me, to build these kinds of features into your current CMS solution, Open Source or not, will cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor hours and months maybe years to get online.

Marketing is an effect way to add value, get content noticed, but… marketing is expensive.


To estimate the potential value gained by making your published content more discoverable let us assume the chart here represents a publication.  The Traditional line (blue) represents your current publishing approach (again print only or also in digital and maybe a link to it on your existing CMS) and the PubCMS line (orange) is the using a new approach to make content more discoverable.

For the line chart the Yellow area represents new value created by making content more discoverable using a PubCMS solution.  In this sample if you measure this area it represent approximately a 46% increase in lifetime revenue over using the Traditional approach.

While this analysis is focused on revenue…The “value” gained from this publication could be measured in Revenue, New Members or Increase Value to members so it’s quite possible this example is very conservative.

How to measure value other than revenue? 

A good PubCMS solution will provide you with the analytics to measure the activity on the site, which publications get more traffic and how long, and other critical feedback to better understand the value of all your publications – which ones to feature, what you membership is interested in and where to extract more value in future publications.

This feedback gives you the publisher other critical information to explore bundling of content or micro-transactions to increase overall sales.   Bundling = if readers visit Publication A and B then an offer to sell Publications A and B for a reduced rate make increase sales (it also give more value to the regular price of each publication)  Micro-Transaction –  if visitors are regularly visiting Chapter 3,4 and 7 but not buying a book then maybe offering to sell the book by chapter makes sense – just like the iTunes model.

So, What are you going to do?

Clearly if your content only exist in printed form stored in a closet, or in a digital file stored on hard drives few have access too the only way it can be discovered is by a small description sitting on your website or in your eCommerce store.   With Bundling and Micro-Transaction you can offer hundreds of new products to meet readers needs and budget.   Try doing this with your existing eCommerce solution.

The internet and the very low cost of storing content can be an effective form of low cost marketing if you can provide access to your digital content, in a searchable and discoverable form – text in the document and/or meta-data describing the content.  By enable all of your published content to be searchable and discoverable (yes, you can still control access), consumable in different forms they way reader value it – your content then has additional value long after it is published.

Content Strategy for 2013: An Association Growth Strategy

As fall hits full swing some of you may be thinking about year end planning and searching for a way to turn over a new leaf (or old one).  Yes, I may be bias but I feel that addressing the opportunities of the information your association gathers and publishes should be a major focus to drive member engagement and overall growth of your association – including revenue.

I’ve centered this blog post on a post by Joe Pulizzi, published Oct 13, 2012.  Word for word, in italics, with my comments (DM) – not in italics.   I think this is critical for association to learn what an expert in the marketing industry is thinking but also to demonstrate how association can excel at Content Marketing.  Based on the strength of your community and content, Associations can outperform more traditional publisher and the for-profit world.   To do so you need three things 1) A Content Strategy 2) Devote resources, but more so an organized team effort, to make the strategy happen 3) a publishing platform or content management system (PubCMS)

Let’s begin with Joe’s post “7 Content Marketing Strategies for 2013” click here for a direct link to the post.

1. Watch “Content 2020 from Coca-Cola

Every time I present at an event, I give the attendees a homework assignment: to watch Coca-Cola’s two-part Content 2020 whiteboard video series. Content 2020 is Coke’s “Jerry McGuire” mission statement on moving the organization from creative excellence to content excellence. Coca-Cola has been a marketing leader for a long time, and here the brand again proves that it is more than qualified to play with the big boys.

(DM) Your first thought might be “Sure, how is out non-profit going to compete with Coke and all of their resources”… well the answer is you don’t.   The point here is to learn and find ways to compete differently.  Innovation isn’t always about something new – actually most of the time it’s about taking ideas and making what you do better.

2. Develop your content marketing mission statement

I’ve surveyed about 1,000 people over the past month, asking each if they have developed an editorial mission, or content marketing mission statement, for their content strategies. Easily less than 5 percent had something like this prepared.

This is a major problem. How can we execute a content strategy if we don’t have a clear vision for why we are developing the content in the first place?  

Every person that touches the content marketing program should know, by heart, what the mission of the content strategy is.

(DM) For an Association this requires that you first clearly understand what your members need – events are a great way to keep that pulse.  Then the second part is as explained before – creating focus from your whole team – events, marketing, membership, publications – to effectively drive thought leadership throughout your organization.

3. A new mindset: Become the leading informational provider for your niche

Brands aren’t taking their content seriously enough. Sure, we are creating content in dozens of channels for multiple marketing objectives. But is your organization’s mindset focused on being the leading provider of information for your customers? If not, why isn’t that your priority?

Look, our customers and prospects can get their information from anywhere to make buying decisions. Why shouldn’t that information come from us? Shouldn’t that at least be the goal?

(DM) I have yet to find an Associations that doesn’t have deep knowledge and thought leadership on the staff and in the membership – own it, command it and in doing so – go big.

4. Utility is key

I absolutely love the Charmin Clean Bathroom App. If you are desperate to find a clean bathroom nearby, and this app provides the answers for you, what do you think the odds are that you would buy Charmin the next time you go to the store?

What if you used Kraft’s iFood app to help you make your next home-cooked meal?

Small businesses find regular answers to their operational challenges at AMEX’s Open Forum.  Take a hard look at your content and see if what you are producing is actually useful for your customers. Is it making their lives better or jobs easier in some way?

(DM) This should be an area of strength for Associations, as your staff should have a deep understanding of what keeps your membership up at night.   At the end of the day it’s not how technical or academic you can be but are you address today’s needs, solving problems, and improving member’s lives.

5. Define and answer your customers’ questions

This is so easy to do, yet most of us don’t do it. Do you have a system in place to compile the questions your customers are asking and post your answers to those questions on the web? The content opportunities that spring up from customer service and sales alone can support your content marketing strategy.

(DM) I heard a CEO of a marketing agency answer the question – “How do you know which social media tools to use and what customers (members) want to talk about”  His answer “Ask”.

6. Employee involvement in content marketing

Take a look at these two projects:

These are two great examples of successful content initiatives that have helped to grow business, were developed from the ground up with a limited budget, and were driven almost entirely by employee content.

(DM) Get examples and an area Associations can excel at because Association not only have staff but membership to help get involved – speakers, though leaders, industry partners.   Dozens of people talking and sharing about a topic can create enough buzz to dominate a topic and make it viral.

7. Co-creation

Andrew Davis’ new book Brandscaping discusses how content partnerships can work. Essentially, a brandscape is a collection of brands that work together to produce great content. I’m starting to believe that this is critical to the evolution of content marketing, as more brands struggle to manage the content marketing process

It’s true that many brands struggle with finding the funding for content marketing projects. Why not work with non-competitive partners to develop amazing and compelling content for a similar customer?

(DM) Another strength of Association’s is that you already have process and events in place to enable co-creation.   It’s critical you tap into these sources and share this wisdom far and wide.   I didn’t say free just wide – there is a way to do both – call me.

OK, I hope this post empowers you to know that with a little strategic planning, the right tools and executed well – your Association is in a strong position to dominate thought leadership in your industry.   Yes, publishers and corporation are racing to build their own community.  They see the value your association has built.  But you have the community and now it’s time to leverage that in new ways to drive growth.

Will a Content Strategy be a focus at your 2013 Strategic Planning?  Call me, I have a lot of old leaves in Wisconsin..and come spring – new ones.

Three Strategies to Create an ePublishing Platform

Trying to attract a crowd to your web presence? Build an ePublishing Platform with NotionPath

One of the most important aspects of embarking on the “investment” of digital publishing is to clearly understand how the solution will impact things like relevance, member value and new forms of revenue.   For some all three may be critical.  For other associations one or to may be more important.   Here are three ideas of HOW to impact – relevance, value and revenue.

#1   Central Repository

Many associations are rich in content but poor in organization.  Content tends to be fragmented and leads to content silos (LINK).   It becomes hard for members, let alone the rest of the world, to find information and often there is no way to cross reference related content coming from multiple sources (i.e. conferences, publications, research, journals, Newsletter, any written or recorded content).

By building a central repository – a data warehouse or knowledge center, you bring value to your members and a central tool for your staff.  You can continue to have other webpages for events, publications, marketing, etc and link back to your central repository.   A central solution allows:

1)    Standardized workflow distribution

2)    Enable readers to search multiple sources of content quickly

3)    Create new products based on topics and offer readers very focused content that meet their needs

These things are critical to enable your members or others to find relevant information fast.  It may also add new forms of revenue because people will pay to get access to just the information they need.

#2 – Delivering the Most Relevant Content

We live in an age of information overload.  Yet it can be critical we find a way to focus on the important information that impacts our career and world the most.   Digital publishing offer Associations new ways to help address this challenge and create value never before possible.

If your association adds value by making sure it collects and gathers content on a daily basis or you have members that have very different needs for the information you collect then this approach to ePublishing may be something worth exploring.

By using meta-data to index and categorize your content, then combing with information in your Association Management System that identifies what your members are interested in.  Plus the right Content Management System – one designed for ePublishing – you can create a web platform where each time a member logs in they are presented with the most relevant content based on their needs.

The site becomes very dynamic; content is changing as often as you enter new content.   Your members can more quickly focus on relevant content making the most of their limited time.

One tip is in your meta-data, you create a one or two sentence description of the content – a “news” summary or headline that to allow your reader to decide if they want to invest more time in that piece of content.   As your site manager watches what content is getting the most attention they can build bundles of content and share that as a new way to help members discover relevant information.

This solution in an “engagement” solution and does require active participation by Association Staff.  When deployed and operated well – this can be come a destination site for frequent visitors by members and possibility non-members too.

#3 – Discoverability and Access Control

Associations controlling access to content has been the standard – it’s how associations protect the value of membership.  The ideas expressed by some of “free access”, “freemium” if you would, as a way to grow, has some merit – but is that sustainable?     Controlling access is important but the challenge is being able to manage multiple types of access and have that access change over time (for example charge for last years conference content, restrict this years to attendees only and open up content from two years ago to all members or even the whole world.

Institutional or company access is also a new area of opportunity for Associations to license content to library’s or large organizations willing to gain access to a larger chunk of content.

So access control is key, but for some Associations it’s also critical they find ways to reach a much greater audience.   If membership is declining are there ways to still reach those not willing to pay for membership, but still see value in a portion of your content.   What about being more open to discovering other groups that you haven’t connected with that would also be interested in you content.

SO the opportunity is to use an ePublishing Content Management systems that allows you to think more strategically about your content, provides a variety of ways to organize and control access to content and be flexible to change that access as time or events change.   Your in-house publisher may very well be your key resource toward membership growth and new revenue.

Eight Questions to Address Before You Start Another RFP Process for Your Website

POST # 2 of 5:  Building an ePublishing Platform

The conversations will continue with a Webinar.  Please register for Building an Association ePublishing Platform on Sep 12, 2012 12:00 PM CDT.

Core to most association is the content they collect, create and share.   In many cases this content is what builds relevance with their members and the rest of the world.   Next only to “networking” … it is a main product of Associations.

What is also clear is that the Internet and digital technology are transforming the publishing world.  Never before has it been easier for an author to get published.  The challenge for authors will be in building an audience… a community… which is where associations can bring a lot of value to content creators.    However, there are a lot of decisions to be made and choices to consider.    It is clear the mobile devices are a growing way for readers to consume content.

So who do you turn to for help.   Existing vendors trying to

# 1   How much of the revenue and control do you need? 

Many associations have turned over the publishing of some of the biggest content assets.   Maybe that still works for you?  But if you need everything you can to help bring more to membership value and to connect with the rest of the world… maybe it’s time, get more control to leverage your content to add more value and build a bigger community.

# 2   What are you willing to invest in staff and costs to convert  content and change workflow?

Many of the more robust publishing platforms are build on XML.   And clearly XML is the future but don’t underestimate the cost to doing so.   Converting to XML is powerful, still expensive, and requires you to once again edit the results.    To really capture the benefits of XML you need to change your content workflow and tools.   That requires additional investment and training for staff.   A full XML workflow solution may start at $200,000 plus training.

Oh, and if you do decide to convert some or all of your content choose your conversion company wisely… for a few extra dollars quality conversion is priceless to reduce mistakes and maintain your image with readers.

# 3   How clear is your vision for the solution or do you need help?

This may not be a big surprise but the clearer you are about your vision for ePublishing solutions the better vendors can provide you with meaningful proposals.   If you don’t have someone on your team to explore the options… find someone.   You may save a lot in wasting your staff on reviewing dozens of solutions with very different technology/products.   Or worse, deciding on one and changing course later.

# 4   How much control over the Branding do you need?

Do not underestimate Branding.    We see in the for-profit world example after example that the “Brand” became more important than the product.   I love “Apple” products, but how many of you don’t think that just because there is an Apple on that box the value just went up?

For associations it’s about being the place to go to learn about ___________ (you fill in the blank).   Yes it’s people, your network, your community, but it’s also your content.   The more people connect the words they read to your association the better chance you have of developing lasting relationships.


Simple Formulas:



Putting a Value on Branding

 Investment Decisions

Total Number of Members / Total Annual Revenue = Annual Revenue Value of One Member Annual Revenue Value of One Member X 100 new Member Goal = New Revenue to Your Association
Total Number of People in your Database who are Not Members / Total New Memberships in the Last Year / Annual Revenue Value of One Member (above) =Average Annual Value of One Lead Average Annual Value of One Lead X 1000 new Lead Goal = New Revenue to Your Association

#5   Exactly what content do you plan to include in this solution?

Time to do inventory.   Build a list of all the types of content your associations collects, shares, stores, creates.   Online, in Print, on the shelf, in your computers… maybe in the closet or on the floor.   All of it.

  • Conference material, publications, journals, manuals, newsletters, audio, video

This is the first step in building a content strategy.  Other things to know – who created it, who edits/organizes it, where is it (website, LMS, eCommerce, basket, folders), what files are they in, who reads it, price or other value it creates if any.

With this exercise down you can begin to think more strategically about how to better leverage that content.  Vendors will be better able to tell you what they can do with it and how much that will cost.

# 6   Do you have a good vision of Access Control?

Being more “open” is important and I support the general idea of some that it’s important to find ways to share and connect to lead to building bigger communities.   And for all the value that “free-premium” has to offer – at the end of they day giving away content does lower it’s value…  in my view anyways.   So good Access control is critical and may be the biggest challenge for most Content Management Systems.

You need to tell them….

  • What is your plan for access control.
  • Member vs. non-members and for what?
  • Will you need eCommerce, subscription access, downloading of files, bundling of files (pulling content apart and forming new offerings)?
  • Can that exist separate from your current eStore?

Of course there are other questions, or a pricing strategy for you to also think of.

For vendors….

  • Can they intergrade their system with your AMS?
  • How much?
  • Who does it?

# 7   Do you have a Distribution Plan?

This is an important question and one that can get very complex depending on how big of a distribution channel you want to fill.   The Book on Demand and eBook business alone has a dozen solid players with four main distributors (Amazon, Apple, Google, Barns & Noble) and dozens of service providers with varying levels of experience.

Each distributor has a separate process, some different file formats to convert to, and different royalty programs (most get around 30% and cost to produce).

#8   Is there a Content or Knowledge Strategy in Place?

I’ve mentioned strategy a few times so I’ll conclude with a recommendation that you either in-house or get help to spend time upfront on defining a clear Knowledge Strategy.  It isn’t, nor should it be, a time consuming process.   Get someone to help guide the process then get your decision makers together and explore the options.   If some options are not clear, learn about them.   The goal isn’t to turn everyone into Content Experts…. it is, to get to the important questions…

* What do members want?   Really!

* What does the rest of the world want?  How can we connect?

* Do we have goals or expectations that are important for future success?  Revenue goals, New membership goals, Outreach Goals.

Getting a handle on your Associations needs will help vendors be more clear on how they can or can not help you.   More clarity on pricing too.  Most Content Management Systems (CMS) can, most of the time, be programmed to meet your needs – some more than others at the cost to “custom develop to your specifications”.   That can get very pricy and adds risk for your staff to get it right without costly rework.  Besides the cost to develop, is the “time” it takes to get your site live on the web and generating more value.    If you can’t get meaningful content on-line with eCommerce, Access Controls and Branded in place  within weeks…. you may be using a CMS or Vendor not designed for ePublishing.

Going Beyond Yet Another Website Upgrade

Association executives understand the importance of their web presence.  It’s driving more and more traffic and members expect more value from how they connect with you online.    So the question is… “How can you create more value with your online presence?”  It’s value creation where you need to focus…. Not on SEO or Marketing or Design or Content Management… none of these “create value”.  And chances are 75% of the bill from your provider is for these very things.

To bring this point home visit this Blog post on paidContent Forget about ‘content management’–and focus on ‘audience development’

This post is part 1 of 5 Posts, stay tuned and please share links to these posts.   We’ll wrap up these posts with a Webinar.   Please register for Building an Association ePublishing Platform on Sep 12, 2012 12:00 PM CDT.

#1 Three Must Have Web Presence Value Creators

#2 Eight Questions to Address Before You Start Another RFP Process for Your Website

#3 Four ePublishing Solution Provider Categories

#4 Five things for us non-technical people to know about XML

#5 Three Strategies for Creating an ePublishing Platform

POST # 1 of 5:  Building an ePublishing Platform

Three Must Haves Web Presence Value Creators


If you can’t be found on the Internet… you don’t exist.   Harsh, but true, in todays connected world.   Just because your organization has a lot of content, much of it online, unless it can be discovered, only the few that know where to find it will.    That may seam to be ok, protect that content, but is it impacting your relevance?   Also, should you be looking beyond your membership to find ways to connect to the rest of the world?

Access is key here.  Don’t give away the valuable content…just make sure people know it’s there…  and either charge for it or ask them to join.

SEO isn’t enough anymore.   The cool trick of some smart people to manipulate your way to the top of a google search results are fading.   In the future, value will return to good old-fashioned quality content, that can be found, and word of mouth (social media).


A bit related to the above, however, I’m specifically addressing the ability to help members and others perform complex, multiple search word, nested searches.   In the world of thousands of pages it will require users to search at the page level to find what they need… quickly.

Meta-data – information that describes content is also critical to help with the searches and to organize content or even reorganize content into new “bundles” of content offerings.


With todays epublishing transformations it’s easier with the right tools now for publishers, associations are publishers, to sell direct.  Selling not only to members but also the rest of the world.   By building a “destination” website Branded with your association, they are in your house and you get to control the experience and offer new things that they may not have otherwise learned about just by buying a book on Amazon.

Not that you should not be working with Amazon and other distributors… but the goal is to direct traffic to your web presence to give your association the biggest opportunity to influence readers and spread your mission.

The key question every association needs to ask, before investing in a new website, is how will this site create new value?  That value can usually be measured by:

  • Increase Member Value
  • Increase Relevance
  • Increase Revenue

…if it can’t impact or all three of these, you might want to invest somewhere else.

Digital Publishing for Associations

As I work with associations on helping them find solutions for increasing their capacity to publish more content digitally it’s clear to me that the digital publishing industry is far from being clear to people.   I try to break down the “solutions’ into these buckets:

Content Conversion – the process of taking application files – mainly Word, InDesign or PDF and converting them into XML or online publishing and/or eBook files such as .Mobi (Amazon) or ePub3 (most others).   XML offer publisher the ability to write once and publish many (print, digital, online).

Comment:  XML offer a lot to digital publishing but it does require investing not just in conversion but for long term sustainability in changing your workflow too.

eBook Distribution – these are downloadable files either read on a computer, table or eBook reader.  There are many options today on how to provide eBooks to members.  Amazon, Apple, Google and Barns & Noble are the big players in the commercial distribution.

Comment:  I’m not a big believer that these types of eBook work well for association except for very popular titles.  The conversation,  high royalty fees and management make this less profitable and the exposure to mainstream marketing not as helpful.

Online Database for Research – there are also dozens of free or paid database solution such as PubMed that content can be uploaded and made available.   Most require content converted to XML and have strict guidelines.

Comment:  For some groups like medical association you should have a strategy to get content to PubMed and others.  The key is to work with a solid conversion company to help you ensure the quality of your content is maintained.   There are only a few companies that do this well.

Content Management Systems (CMS) – maybe the area with the widest array of solutions and the most confusion.  There are many CMS solutions – open sources and proprietary.  All at the core help manage the content on a website.  Few CMS solutions provide “true” publishing features such as subscription management, access control, eCommerce, uploading and managing large collections content (tens of hundreds of thousand pages), advance search and meta-data.

Comment:  Know what your needs are… what your members and the rest of the world needs.   There is a unique new opportunity with the right tools for Associations to build world class ePublishing Portals – driving relevance, revenue and more member value.

The first three above the focus is usually on service and quality with price being fairly consistent.   The more “technical” the content the more quality is needed in the conversion process.   The CMS solution is about matching the needs with the solution with the budget.   The goal – eliminate content silos, have a mix of free, member access only and paid for content.   Make sure the content is shareable and fully indexed by google and other search engines (but the site manages access).

Publishing – Knowledge Strategy – This is How Innovation Starts

The following is a post from Seth Godin.  Word for Word because I can’t find a way to improve it nor want to remove a word of it.     You, as the Leader of an organization trying to be positioned as thought leaders –  should consider these 13 (my lucky number) things.  Chance are most of your current vendors won’t understand as they have too much to lose.   Enjoy some innovative thinking written four years ago!   There is still time to react – BUT DO IT TODAY.  After you read this  Start here!

Music Lessons (that work for publishing, too)

Seth Gobin wrote this four years ago, worth a revisit:

Music lessons

Things you can learn from the music business (as it falls apart)

The first rule is so important, it’s rule 0:

0. The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now.
Soon, the new thing will be better than the old thing will be. But if you wait until then, it’s going to be too late.  Feel free to wax nostalgic about the old thing, but don’t fool yourself into believing it’s going to be here forever. It won’t.

1. Past performance is no guarantee of future success
Every single industry changes and, eventually, fades. Just because you made money doing something a certain way yesterday, there’s no reason to believe you’ll succeed at it tomorrow.

The music business had a spectacular run alongside the baby boomers. Starting with the Beatles and Dylan, they just kept minting money. The co-incidence of expanding purchasing power of teens along with the birth of rock, the invention of the transistor and changing social mores meant a long, long growth curve.

As a result, the music business built huge systems. They created top-heavy organizations, dedicated superstores, a loss-leader touring industry, extraordinarily high profit margins, MTV and more. It was a well-greased system, but the key question: why did it deserve to last forever?

It didn’t. Yours doesn’t either.

2. Copy protection in a digital age is a pipe dream
If the product you make becomes digital, expect that the product you make will be copied.

There’s a paradox in the music business that is mirrored in many industries: you want ubiquity, not obscurity, yet digital distribution devalues your core product.

Remember, the music business is the one that got in trouble for bribing disk jockeys to play their music on the radio. They are the ones that spent millions to make (free) videos for MTV. And yet once the transmission became digital, they understood that there’s not a lot of reason to buy a digital version (via a cumbersome expensive process) when the digital version is free (and easier).

Most items of value derive that value from scarcity. Digital changes that, and you can derive value from ubiquity now.

The solution isn’t to somehow try to become obscure, to get your song off the (digital) radio. The solution is to change your business.

You used to sell plastic and vinyl. Now, you can sell interactivity and souvenirs.

3. Interactivity can’t be copied
Products that are digital and also include interaction thrive on centralization and do better and better as the market grows in size (consider Facebook or Basecamp).

Music is social. Music is current and everchanging. And most of all, music requires musicians. The winners in the music business of tomorrow are individuals and organizations that create communities, connect people, spread ideas and act as the hub of the wheel… indispensable and well-compensated.

4. Permission is the asset of the future
For generations, businesses had no idea who their end users were. No ability to reach through the record store and figure out who was buying that Rolling Stones album, no way to know who bought this book or that vase.

Today, of course, permission is an asset to be earned. The ability (not the right, but the privilege) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them. For ten years, the music business has been steadfastly avoiding this opportunity.

It’s interesting though, because many musicians have NOT been avoiding it. Many musicians have understood that all they need to make a (very good) living is to have 10,000 fans. 10,000 people who look forward to the next record, who are willing to trek out to the next concert. Add 7 fans a day and you’re done in 5 years. Set for life. A life making music for your fans, not finding fans for your music.

The opportunity of digital distribution is this:

When you can distribute something digitally, for free, it will spread (if it’s good). If it spreads, you can use it as a vehicle to allow people to come back to you and register, to sign up, to give you permission to interact and to keep them in the loop.

Many authors (I’m on that list) have managed to build an entire career around this idea. So have management consultants and yes, insurance salespeople. Not by viewing the spread of digital artifacts as an inconvenient tactic, but as the core of their new businesses.

5. A frightened consumer is not a happy consumer.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but here goes: suing people is like going to war. If you’re going to go to war with tens of thousands of your customers every year, don’t be surprised if they start treating you like the enemy.

6. This is a big one: The best time to change your business model is while you still have momentum.
It’s not so easy for an unknown artist to start from scratch and build a career self-publishing. Not so easy for her to find fans, one at a time, and build an audience. Very, very easy for a record label or a top artist to do so. So, the time to jump was yesterday. Too late. Okay, how about today?

The sooner you do it, the more assets and momentum you have to put to work.

7. Remember the Bob Dylan rule: it’s not just a record, it’s a movement.
Bob and his handlers have a long track record of finding movements. Anti-war movements, sure, but also rock movies, the Grateful Dead, SACDs, Christian rock and Apple fanboys. What Bob has done (and I think he’s done it sincerely, not as a calculated maneuver) is seek out groups that want to be connected and he works to become the connecting the point.

By being open to choices of format, to points of view, to moments in time, Bob Dylan never said, “I make vinyl records that cost money to listen to.” He understands at some level that music is often the soundtrack for something else.

I think the same thing can be true for chefs and churches and charities and politicians and makers of medical devices. People pay a premium for a story, every time.

8. Don’t panic when the new business model isn’t as ‘clean’ as the old one
It’s not easy to give up the idea of manufacturing CDs with a 90% gross margin and switching to a blended model of concerts and souvenirs, of communities and greeting cards and special events and what feels like gimmicks. I know.

Get over it. It’s the only option if you want to stay in this business. You’re just not going to sell a lot of CDs in five years, are you?

If there’s a business here, first few in will find it, the rest lose everything.

9. Read the writing on the wall.
Hey, guys, I’m not in the music business and even I’ve been writing about this for years. I even started a record label five years ago to make the point. Industries don’t die by surprise. It’s not like you didn’t know it was coming. It’s not like you didn’t know who to call (or hire).

This isn’t about having a great idea (it almost never is). The great ideas are out there, for free, on your neighborhood blog. Nope, this is about taking initiative and making things happen.

The last person to leave the current record business won’t be the smartest and he won’t be the most successful, either. Getting out first and staking out the new territory almost always pays off.

10. Don’t abandon the Long Tail
Everyone in the hit business thinks they understand the secret: just make hits. After all, if you do the math, it shows that if you just made hits, you’d be in fat city.

Of course, the harder you try to just make hits, the less likely you are to make any hits at all. Movies, records, books… the blockbusters always seem to be surprises. Surprise hit cookbooks, even.

Instead, in an age when it’s cheaper than ever to design something, to make something, to bring something to market, the smart strategy is to have a dumb strategy. Keep your costs low and go with your instincts, even when everyone says you’re wrong. Do a great job, not a perfect one. Bring things to market, the right market, and let them find their audience.

Stick to the knitting has never been more wrong. Instead, find products your customers want. Don’t underestimate them. They’re more catholic in their tastes than you give them credit for.

11. Understand the power of  digital
Try to imagine something like this happening ten years ago: An eleven-year-old kid wakes up on a Saturday morning, gets his allowance, then, standing in his pajamas, buys a Bon Jovi song for a buck.

Compare this to hassling for a ride, driving to the mall, finding the album in question, finding the $14 to pay for it and then driving home.

You may believe that your business doesn’t lend itself to digital transactions. Many do. If you’ve got a business that doesn’t thrive on digital, it might not grow as fast as you like… Maybe you need to find a business that does thrive on digital.

 12. Celebrity is underrated
The music business has always created celebrities. And each celebrity has profited for decades from that fame. Frank Sinatra is dead and he’s still profiting. Elvis is still alive and he’s certainly still profiting.

The music business has done a poor job of leveraging that celebrity and catching the value it creates. Many businesses now have the power to create their own micro-celebrities. These individuals capture attention and generate trust, two critical elements in growing profits.

13. Value is created when you go from many to few, and vice versa
The music business has thousands of labels and tens of thousands of copyright holders. It’s a mess.

And there’s just one iTunes music store. Consolidation pays.

At the same time, there are other industries where there are just a few major players and the way to profit is to create splinters and niches.

13. Whenever possible, sell subscriptions
Few businesses can successfully sell subscriptions (magazines being the very best example), but when you can, the whole world changes. HBO, for example, is able to spend its money making shows for its viewers rather than working to find viewers for every show.

The biggest opportunity for the music business is to combine permission with subscription. The possibilities are endless. And I know it’s hard to believe, but the good old days are yet to happen.

….wow right.  Now Start here!

Connecting with Your “Whole” Community

When an association or any membership based organization thinks about it’s community the first impulse is to think members.  There is a huge mistake with thinking this way.   Just ask yourself where your members come from?  Do your members come and go?   Do your members join as they change careers or reach a certain level of seniority?   Are there others that would value what you do and say?

The reason I raise these questions is to help associations with their content distribution needs.   Specifically reaching not just members but potential members…your “leads”.     For that matter, are there people whom you want to influence that may never become members?

When considering the value of your content you should be thinking about how you could share more content with the world.    This will help you to both grow members and evangelize the issue that drives your association.   Doing so also builds member value, people get to see what your association is talking about, and by all means use scarcity, holding back some information or monetizing that information wherever it makes sense…   but if the world doesn’t know what you are talking about…well, it’s like that tree that falls in the forest and no one is around to hear.

Where to find content to share and share widely:

  • Conferences:  After the event share as much as you can capture.   Maybe save some of the better pieces for members only or charge a fee….but share the rest.
  • Older content:  After 3 or 6 or 12 months (may very depending on the value) share your content.   Better yet, make it highly findable for members and non-members so you become THE place.
  • Offer Speakers, Authors, Sponsors, members a platform to share their thoughts and ideas with the world.   Now that you are building this knowledge center, allow your members and sponsors to contribute.   Keep it a simple process…little editing or review…and make the process easy for both the creator and the staff to get published (and this applied to all three suggestions…keep it simple).

It’s critical for associations and publishers to re-think their approach to sharing content.  Your relevance may rest on how you leverage your knowledge.

Share with us your plan for 2012 to connect with your community.

Image:  jscreationzs