The only problem I’ve ever had in life, is not getting my own way.
I’ve spent the last 24 hours with some of the brightest minds in publishing. The C-level folks from organizations like Hearst, CNN, SheKnows, USA Today, HuffPo, and more. Really smart folks who’ve built legacy brands with massive reach.
At their core they want to be an agent for change in the publishing space. They want more revenues, more ROI for their advertisers, more audience engagement, more, more, more. They want to be really good at a lot of shit.
In my media business, I’ve done very well at leveraging network, finding the right folks that are doing one thing really well and plugging them into another group doing something else very well. The returns are prolific. The advertisers get reach and ROI while the consumers don’t feel screwed watching a damn commercial or ad in every thing that they watch, read and consume.
Ads are increasing the amounts of misinformation and pressure to put out more content more cheaply . At the expense of quality. It’s unsustainable.
I’m not suggesting that I have the solution to any of this. I’m merely suggesting that publishers get out of their own way. They’re stuck in ads and subscriptions, while talking about platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and more.
What if they listen to consumers rather than advertisers in order to go beyond ads? I get it. ROI is important. It’s a great buzz word that comes up often. How many brands (not publishers) have learned to embrace ROR (return on relationship) and have won big because of it? I’m not sure that we can focus on advertisers and their needs without focusing on consumers and their wants. Connecting to consumers garners the data that becomes meaningful to advertisers.
I get the sense more and more that marketers (brands) get it. Agencies do not.
In all of these conversations and roundtable discussions one theme emerged. All of us want the same thing. And none of us are getting our way.
Those of you with a few miles under your belt may remember this little ditty from the original hard core troubadour, Jez “JJ” Jefferson:
“Jack up that old truck so you can change your bent wheel,
Whip out your mama’s skillet – get yourself a hot meal,
Hitch up your box scraper cuz you need a smooth field,
But you can’t fix stupid, son, your fate is done sealed.”
I couldn’t have said it better.
The problem with stupid is this – 99.9% of the time, it is unrecognizable to the practitioner until after it has occurred and the damage has already been done. In this way, stupid differs from some of the other afflictions of humankind. As an example, let’s discuss carelessness.
When you’re careless, you usually have a little voice telling you that what you’re about to attempt is a bad idea.
Say you’re on a ladder in your backyard, trying to get a big branch off the roof before the wind blows it onto someone’s head. You can almost reach it, but it would be much safer to move the ladder to a more convenient position and easily grab the branch. You stretch for it, the ladder falls away and you’re hanging briefly on the edge before you fall ten feet into the bushes. Assuming you didn’t break anything, all you are thinking is dammit, I knew I shouldn’t have done that! But you did, and now you’re horizontal in your hedge with a branch up your ass. That’s just careless.
Or maybe you are running a little late to a business meeting. You grab the papers you need from your desk and jog/canter to the conference room. Everyone is still standing (phew!) and making introductions. As you sit and the presentation begins, you have that nagging feeling that you forgot something. But what? You dismiss it, since you have everything in front of you. Life is complicated, and sometimes your brain gets spun up in all the excitement and chaos. Then it hits you, just as the presenter clicks to the next slide. Which is a photo of you sticking your tongue out at the camera, except that now you’re doing it to a room full of potential clients. You forgot to remove the placeholder image from the file. Embarrassing, yes. Career suicide? Hopefully not, but still careless.
And then there’s insensitivity. While in these instances you may not have that little conscience-fairy whispering to you, with hindsight you should have foreseen the potential for hurt feelings and worse.
You’re shopping for a birthday gift – nothing too extravagant, but something that will be fun for the recipient, who is a huge fan of the recent movie, “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” You look and you look and you look, and right there, on the clearance rack, is a beautifully embroidered shirt with a colorful image of the main characters. On the back it states, “Don’t mind me, I’m lost and mad as a hatter!” Perfect. You exit the checkout line, beaming and triumphant. But later, you hear through a couple party attendees that the gift didn’t go over too well. The party was for a child with special needs, and you never considered how a shirt saying something like that could be taken the wrong way. You call to apologize, wishing you had possessed the wisdom to walk right by that clearance rack and keep shopping. Say hi to insensitivity.
How about this – you’re in the bathroom at work washing your hands and two of your co-workers walk in. They are in stitches about a movie both saw recently, and take great relish in reciting some of the more libelous and libidinous dialogue contained therein. It sounds a bit naughty, but also hysterically funny, so you ask a couple questions and laugh along with them briefly, then exit. But as you leave the room, you see multiple eyes looking at you. Listen up Einstein – you do recall that most bathrooms are constructed of materials that amplify sound. You just did a live broadcast to a bunch of your co-workers. At this point, you have to hope that no one heard too much, because creating a hostile work environment these days is not just a no-no, it’s just wrong. To be safe, you should have left the bathroom the minute Beavis and Butthead showed up. Now you might be in big trouble due to insensitivity – there’s no way to tell until you get the call from HR.
But being careless or insensitive is usually not fatal, either personally or professionally. Stupidity can be fatal. Stupidity can ruin lives, and much worse. Stupidity can end lives.
Consider the flat tire. You hear that semi-familiar whump-whump-whump and know you have to pull over. You’re on an overpass so there’s plenty of room, which is fortunate because to change the tire, you have to pretty much empty the trunk of all your vacation gear. So that’s what you do, being careful to stack it against the wall away from the lanes of traffic. Finally, the compartment holding your spare is uncovered, and just as you are pulling out your jack, a huge truck blows by with a fierce wind blast in its wake. You watch in slow motion horror as most of your Sunday newspaper rises into the air, freezes, and slowly flutters over the guardrail, raining down on the oncoming vehicles below. After what seems an eternity, the first screech, then the second, the third. The first crunch, then a bunch more in quick succession. Silence. You just know. Stupid. Doesn’t even begin to describe it.
There are also stupid business scenarios that can lead to fatalities, literally and figuratively. Let’s say you and a couple of your friends got together five years ago and created a social media app that blew up beyond all expectations. Millennials absolutely love it, and daily use is now well north of 100 million. Your problem today is – how do you monetize your users without turning them off? Distract them with new features so they won’t notice the ads! Your product team keeps them coming – all kinds of customization options, chat, a smart watch version, video calling, additional data security measures, and more. Your valuation has grown to the point where you can acquire other companies, and you do this on a regular basis.
Sounds great Brian – I don’t see a problem. In fact, this is a “problem” that all of us would love to have!
Unfortunately, there’s more. One of the embedded features is a filter that measures how fast the user is traveling at a given time. Slick idea – if you’re running or on a bike or in a plane you can communicate this to your audience. But even great ideas can morph into morbidity – did you ever consider that your user base (especially the younger millennials who still march to the beat of their collective nucleus accumbens) might be tempted into irresponsible behavior by the challenge of speed? No, you were focused on feeding the beast, and we all get this – your company needs to evolve in order to survive and this is your sole focus (besides taking calls from investment bankers.)
So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of your dear users crashed a car into a family while using your speed filter. And probably it’s not a stretch to imagine that given the ferocious impact, everyone was killed. Snapchat is facing a very similar situation today. Stupidity in business can result in fatalities, both human and (quite possibly, in this instance) corporate.
So like I said earlier, stupidity is usually unrecognizable until it presents itself. At that point, it can’t be fixed cuz it happened. What can you do?
You’ve got to learn. Create your own filter and set it to auto so there is no chance of a recurrence. Practice engaging your filter throughout the day in difference situations. Even if you think it’s a waste of time and you already have the answers, do it anyway for two reasons. First, practice makes perfect. By looking at even the most mundane events and interactions a different way, you might learn something.
And second, an ounce of prevention cures a pound of stupid. Be sure to take the cure.
1: A quality or characteristic displayed by a person through the written word that this person would not ordinarily possess. 2: The confrontational attitude exhibited by someone via an anonymous entry to an internet web-page or posting. 3: An attitude demonstrated by someone when they realize that actions taken by them or words written by them across a computer connection will have little, if any, personal repercussions. 4: A false bravery possessed by an individual who does not possess the true quality in person.
I love this definition of keyboard courage.
Sometimes I catch a ball game on the weekends, spend time on my family farm or even book a last minute getaway. But not last weekend. I went to Beautycon for the first time ever.
I’m sure I could use a ton of the products they were selling and demoing, but I personally think the eye shadow would clash with my favorite bowties.
All jokes aside, the event was phenomenal. I was able to spend a few days with some top notch bloggers, you-tubers, content creators and influencers. All of them use the power of social media to share their journey, much like influencers in the corporate world.
As one Beautycon influencer shared the continual backlash of negative comments she would receive on a daily basis in a panel discussion, she was firm in her belief that it’s not worth the time or energy to even respond.
We’ve all been there. I work in media and have gotten the same type of backlash. Somehow a computer screen gives people the courage to act like a complete jackass, yet most of them would never do it in person.
Both in business and our personal lives (which are closer than we want to think), we put ourselves out there using social media of some sort. I’ve even had negative responses on LinkedIn – which is probably the most unlikely place to get those, you know, since recruiters and employers use it regularly to get insight to who you are before hiring.
Opening ourselves up to people we don’t actually know and quite frankly some of whom we have no desire to “get to know,” we often get feedback we don’t like.
Negative comments on Instagram, YouTube or blogs can get downright absurd. Internet trolls get off on posting hateful noise across any social media posts to degrade the original poster and solicit negative responses.
Whether you’re a beauty blogger, a marketing influencer or a content creator in any other industry, you’ll find yourself dealing with trolls. So what do you do about it?
I wasn’t a bit surprised when this same question came up during a panel discussion with Beautycon influencers. Know how they respond to negative comments on social?
Spoiler alert. They don’t.
The common opinion of the Beautycon influencers was that haters gonna hate (inspired by Taylor Swift, I’m sure) and getting wrapped up in their opinions is not doing anything for you in the long run. We all know that misery loves company and the posters only want to stir the pot with their comments.
Don’t let internet hate diminish your efforts.
But most importantly, don’t let the haters get to you. In the famous words of Miss Swift herself, “Shake it off”.
So I have good news and bad news.
The world of media has been turned inside out by the internet.
By now everyone knows that fact represents both the good and bad news. On the negative side, the online world facilitates “sharing” and digital thievery while conditioning audiences to expect everything for free. However, it also opens up the global marketplace to even the smallest company, giving any good idea, product, or service a chance to fly.
So the business channels have changed – publishers now have many avenues to pursue paying customers, such as by holding live events (and rebroadcasting them), sponsoring online and traditional conferences, contests, awards, print and digital advertising – all kinds of options including newsstand and subscription sales. But smart folks will always seek more and better ways to promote themselves and grow. For B2B publishers, data and lead generation have seen widespread adoption across most sectors of the industry. What else can be done?
In the publishing world, brand or content licensing refers to the leasing of media assets or intellectual property to a third party, temporarily, for an agreed-upon fee. It can take a number of forms, from awards programs and editorial “best of” lists to reprints and logo licensing (the “Playboy Bunny” being a classic magazine media example).
But does everyone get it? Does anyone get it?
We decided to find out. Folio: and Wright’s Media teamed up to conduct a short survey of 261 media companies across the consumer, B2B, association, and city/regional magazine sectors. The goal was to determine how well brand licensing was understood by publishers, and to what extent were they exploiting these opportunities to create more revenue.
Believe it or not, only about one quarter of publishers get it. The survey found that 28 percent utilize brand licensing as a revenue stream.
The stated factors behind this apprehension vary, according to the data. Some publishers simply do not understand what brand licensing is, while others fear the potential costs of initiating such a program will overwhelm any possibility of a positive return.
Brian Kolb, COO at Wright’s Media, says this is a common misconception among publishers.
“Most publishers seem to believe that they have to keep any content licensing activities in-house. Of course, this means they will need to hire a staff to manage the program,” he says. “Our partners understand that content licensing is an art form that we have many spent years perfecting. And when Wright’s initiates a content licensing program, there is no up-front cost for publishers.”
Indeed, more respondents (42) say they use an in-house team to monetize their logo and content than use external partners (34). Other respondents cite fears of a damaged brand reputation.
“Licensing the brand and logo would make it appear that we are ‘selling out,’” writes another respondent.
There was a glimmer of hope that publishers are pursuing additional avenues of revenue growth. Media companies are beginning to more vigorously pursue brand licensing initiatives (even without a formal brand licensing strategy). Fully one third claim to have an awards program associated with their publication currently in place, with another 8 percent saying they will add such a program in the year.
And yet, out of those with an existing awards program, less than half monetize the awards logo and trophy in any way.
“Your brand has value,” Kolb continues. “Every time you give away content assets or the use of your logo for free, you are slowly eroding the value of your brand – something you spent years building.”
Among those respondents who say they have changed their business model in the last five years to maximize brand licensing opportunities, most have invested in more awards, recognition programs, and editorial lists. Makes sense, since the survey also showed editorial lists such as “best of,” “top places to work,” or “rising industry stars,” make up the most commonly cited form of brand licensing (27 percent) where respondents see growth. A dedicated marketing communications department comes in second (17 percent), followed by reprints/e-prints at 14 percent.
Still, those publishers who have changed their business model to embrace brand licensing remain a minority, at just over 21 percent. “Publishers change their business models to keep up with the latest changes in their audience and in technology, yet nearly 80 percent of respondents haven’t altered their model to maximize revenue from content licensing,” adds Kolb. “A well-crafted licensing strategy generates a substantial new, sustainable revenue stream.”
If there’s a clear takeaway from the survey, it’s that brand and content licensing remains a mostly untapped market for publishers. In a time when complacency can often lead to obsolescence, Kolb says it’s definitely worth considering, despite concerns over how it works or the investment required.
“When we start conversations about licensing content for publishers and creating revenue, we usually find great content, a trusted brand, but no staff or experience developing a licensing strategy. That’s where we come in.”