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Champagne and New Revenues at the Digiday Publishing Summit

By Sam Jordan

3 minute read

Just back from the Digiday Publishing Summit in Vail, Colorado and here are a couple of things that caught my attention.

Number One: Champagne in vending machines is a thing! I found one in my hotel lobby... circumstances conspired to prevent me from indulging, but I like the way these people roll.

Number Two: Revenue Diversification was a big thing in Vail. These two words where liberally sprinkled throughout the program and featured in presentation after presentation from the impressive lineup of publishing illuminati gracing the stage.

Indeed, in the event wrap up, revenue diversification hogged 3 of the 5 summary bullets. We were told that:

  • Diversification is a process
  • …and it’s not one size fits all
  • New revenue requires a new stack

I don’t disagree but I have a bit of a problem with the way it was framed by several publishers. Firstly, the revenue diversification conversation is definitely coming from a very advertising centric place. Secondly, the motivation and the decisions around what types of revenue to chase seemed to be driven by the business.

I’ve been deeply involved with many projects that would fall into the revenue diversification category, from subscription propositions to newsletter programs, new data and insight capabilities, and ecommerce builds. Whether they are incremental or ‘game-changing’ these revenue diversifications live or die based on how closely they are focused on customer needs. Going through a menu of what you could do, because you think you need to, is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. A simpler and more reliable path to success is to start with your customer and a solid understanding of the value you provide them. From here you can explore to expand upon this. This value is what your business will be able to monetize, and there are a number of ways you’ll be able to do it. Careful consideration of the size of the prize versus what it’s going to take your business to capture it will inform your roadmap.

The last bullet point is similarly true-ish too. What revenue diversification requires is actually new capabilities – only some of which will be tech. Consider the publisher pivot to subscriptions:  many businesses will need to build new D2C teams to handle everything from customer engagement to support and billing as they may be interacting directly with customers for the first time. The new skills that businesses need to bring in and the implications on their operating models will be as important an investment as any new tech.

Overall, I’d suggest thinking more narrowly about where diversification (growth) will come from – the customer. Then think more broadly about that will be needed to capitalize on that opportunity – people, operating models, data, partnerships, product dev, and… tech.