April 06, 2013

How To Succeed In Publishing

For two decades News Ltd has been successful at one thing, being more efficient. Their entire organisation has been lead by Uncle Rupert towards leaner and more profitable business practices that deliver returns to their share holders.

To this day efficiency is the primary focus of the management. The trouble with this model is that eventually something else comes along that is an order of magnitude more efficient and drastically cheaper. It's called the internet.

The publishers that will survive are those with the ability to produce better quality instead of better efficiency.

I've heard various news chiefs tell their shareholders that they can cut budgets without cutting quality. It's a mantra that you hear in any industry where a race to the bottom has taken over the logic of otherwise rational minds. They honestly believe it's true, as they watch markets shrink and revenue slide.

"We wont be cutting content" is hardly the same objective as "We want to create better journalism and set a new standard for publishing." The two are worlds apart.

The manufacturing industry in Australia has learned that it's a folly to compete on price, the contracts will eventually end up in China or Thailand regardless how hard management push for efficiency or employee discounting. We can still manufacture goods in the Australia, they just have to be quality based products that demand high technology or are very unique.

Publishing is the same. By all means take full advantage of more efficient technology to produce a publication, be that delivering to millions of iPads or using digital offices to coordinate content production. But efficiency should never be the end goal, it's merely the instrument to enable better content and higher standards.

Tossing a bunch of opinions onto a website is no longer good enough. Adding a few "left versus right" opinions into that mix doesn't achieve balance, it just looks like the editorial direction is suffering from schizofrenia.

If your publication's primary objective is anything other than "to publish the best possible content and inform our audience to the highest standard" then you're probably wasting your time. The challenge is to recognise how to improve your publication and to never settle for good enough.