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Succeeding in an Uncertain Custom Content Climate - 9/10/2013 -

Time Inc.’s Newell Thompson shares insights on today’s publishing trends and how they are affecting the custom content marketplace.

By Lia Dangelico

With the clock inching closer to5:00 p.m., it's not easy to fill seats in the closing session of an information-packed Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting. And yet the turnout for"Custom Publishing — Why Associations Can Master this Money-Maker," with Newell Thompson of Time Inc., proved that members and other industry professionals are eager for tips on surviving and thriving in this challenging media environment.

Thompson, executive director of custom content, shared information on Time Inc.'s strategic partnerships and custom publishing opportunities, but focused his talk on his "Seven Thoughts for Business" – top considerations he faces daily in his efforts to turn custom content into revenue generators:

  • From evolution to revolution. "We're all crossing the bridge to nowhere, and we're not really sure where we're going to end up," said Thompson. As we enter into a new age of publishing and media, many things have changed and will continue to, and it seems the rulebook has been tossed out the window. No one is sure what comes next.
  • Traditional publishing re-imagined. These changes have opened a window of opportunity, though, in which new partnerships can be formed, new distribution channels can be developed, and the future of publishing and media can be reimagined.
  • Risk taking and innovation. To succeed in this time of uncertainty, publishers shouldn't expect specific outcomes as they have in the past and must be willing to take some risks to reap the rewards.
  • Content vs. distribution. Perhaps most important of all, Thompson said, is that publishers need to think about content and not distribution. Remember that in the consumer world, distribution is free via the various social media channels and the Web.
  • Waves of information. Associations are at an advantage, though, as they have expertise and lots of information on specific topics, which will be critical going forward as readers seek out contextual relevance for their own lifestyles. Sell your membership base and brand, advised Thompson — don't sell your distribution.
  • Maintain integrity.While some risk is vital, don't rush into a "try everything" mentality. Your values and principles should remain at the front of all of your decision-making.
  • Content aggregation. It's important for associations to not only build up their own content around a specific topic, but also to bring in competitors and industry thought leaders to share what they know. Consider creating a space where members can go to get the facts and key opinions on their industry and share their thoughts — a space you can, in turn, grow and monetize.

"Our business has changed," Thompson said. "Keep in mind that strategic alliances, even sometimes free partnerships, as well as good old-fashioned risk-taking and exploration, can strengthen your efforts and improve your bottom line.”

Lia Dangelico is managing editor at Stratton Publishing & Marketing. Association Media & Publishing thanks Lia for volunteering to cover this session for members who were unable to attend.


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