FEATURE 

How the film Moneyball can help publishers smash their own home runs

In the 2011 film Moneyball, the manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team faces the challenge of how to build a winning team, with a budget much smaller than its rivals. Publishers can learn much from his approach, says WoodWing CEO Ross Paterson.

By Ross Paterson

How the film Moneyball can help publishers smash their own home runs
Photograph: Chris Chow on Unsplash

Everyone in publishing knows the challenges of working within budget constraints. But the way manager Billy Beane – played by Brad Pitt – approaches the problem can provide some inspiration. Beane hires a statistics whizz – Peter Brand – who advises him; "Your goal shouldn't be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins."

This shift in thinking can be applied to the publishing world today. Most publishers own a number of titles, a trend increasing with consolidation. But these titles are more often than not treated as individual players, rather than components of a winning team.

In this article, I will look at some ways publishers can think of titles as key components of a team greater than the sum of its parts, drawing on what we have seen from among our most innovative customers.

1. Put data at the centre of the organisation, not at the centre of a title

Analytics and data are often siloed – not just by channel, but also by title. But by simply considering data to be a central, title and channel-agnostic function, you open up the potential for new ways of thinking. These may force you to question assumptions and identify new possibilities about how to leverage content. Some things that publishers have found from using this approach include:

  • They were producing significantly more content than required – due to contributors generally writing for one title. Not only were they producing more content than they needed, they were producing more content than their competitors.
  • Digital was considered as the default go-to area for growth. But in their haste to grow in the digital space, it turned out that some digital-only content was more expensive to produce and gave less ROI than other types of content.
  • Significant productivity gains could be made by doubling down on top-performing content, minimising the time spent on under-performing content, and taking a structured approach to reusing content across titles.

2. Centralise your systems

Analysing your content across titles can open a world of new possibilities. But realising these is not possible if tools and systems are not centralised. A single Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution, combined with strong metadata governance, will help contributors access and share assets and content across titles. Centralised content creation and publishing solutions will enable (remote) contributors to log in, work, and publish to different titles and channels from one place.

Building an integrated system and choosing the right tools is also a mindset. A “content first” mentality, in which systems are built so that contributors have the freedom to focus on creating great stories rather than be concerned with tools, channels, or even titles, is a popular way of thinking among our most innovative customers.

3. Pre-plan and put KPIs on everything

Finally, once key opportunities for reuse have been identified, it is equally important to set clear goals and KPIs around content. For example, you may have an evergreen article, such as a recipe for pumpkin soup. Before even commissioning this article, you should have goals and KPIs attached. For example, it can be used across X titles over X period of time, aimed at driving X amount of revenue. This type of careful pre-planning can inform content strategy - focusing on certain types of content at the expense of others and slimming down on content creation while increasing ROI.

Buy wins, not players

In Moneyball, the Oakland A’s baseball team goes on an unprecedented 20-game winning streak, setting an American League record. By thinking in terms of wins rather than players, Billy Beane’s approach enabled the team to thrive in spite of the organisation’s budgetary constraints.

Much of the discussion online today about publishers that are reaching profitability focus on subscription models for individual titles or branching out into new revenue streams such as podcasts or events. But for many publishers, taking a Moneyball approach to content strategy could be the secret ingredient that enables them to thrive.

We build solutions that are perfect for large teams to efficiently work together on creative processes.

About us...

WoodWing helps brands, publishers, and agencies create, manage, and publish content across teams and channels. We build solutions that are perfect for large teams to efficiently work together on creative processes, within systems that are easy to manage. Customers include Hearst, Forbes, Axel Springer, Coca Cola, and Yamaha.

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