James Evelegh's comment piece from the May / June 2018 issue of InPublishing magazine.
In April, I was shocked to hear that Bauer was shutting down The Debrief. Launched in 2014 as a “multi-platform brand for constantly connected, influential ABC1 20-something women”, the title created waves; if there was a digital award to be had, The Debrief would win it, or so it seemed.
If a digital-only brand from one of the UK’s biggest publishers can’t cut it, what hope is there?
At times like this, to ward off despondency, I think it’s a good idea to go back to basics. Here are my four articles of publishing faith: 1. There will always be a publishing industry because people need and enjoy professionally produced content. The man in the street can write his comments, self-publish his poetry, share his holiday snaps, upload his DIY video, but more often than not, it’s all a bit rubbish and of little interest to anyone outside his family. There are some honourable exceptions, but, generally speaking, the best content is produced by professional publishers, in much the same way that the best dentistry is done by qualified dentists. Due to the arrival of the internet and pocket-size personal computers (also known as phones), the business model that sustains publishers has changed dramatically. It will never return to its pre-internet form, but this is only a problem if you can’t see it. 2. Publishers provide the best environment for advertisers. Our sites are professionally edited and curated, increasingly well-designed, full of exceptional content for well-defined audiences and offer the best and safest environment for advertisers. Advertisers might not have realised this yet, but it’s only a matter of time. 3. Nothing remains shiny and new forever. David Cameron once famously told Tony Blair, “you were the future once”. Facebook might well have said it too, to the publishing industry, and one day soon, some new upstart will be saying it to Facebook. As some of the gloss starts to get knocked off the Silicon Valley set, as more stringent data privacy regulations start to eat into their USP, as users grow weary of the fake news and vitriol spewed out on their platforms, and as the publishing sector continues to raise its game, the playing field will start to level out. 4. Our content has, err… value. The fact that this needs saying says much about our early missteps on the internet, when we gave it all away for free. Like books, film and music, our content is valuable. I enjoy reading stuff on the Guardian’s website, particularly their top columnists, whose writing I find insightful, witty and a joy to read. I would pay for it if I had to.
So, sadly, The Debrief is no more, but if we keep innovating, keep launching new stuff and, most of all, keep producing exceptional content, we will prevail.
Talking of exceptional content, I’m delighted to say that we’re about to publish our first piece of paid content. In June, we will be unveiling The InPublishing Guide to Successful Paid Content Strategies. This guide, only available in print, has been researched and written by Peter Houston. We will be providing more information on this shortly – do look out for it. For the time being, you can read an excellent article by Peter in this issue about the reader-revenue revolution.
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