REVIEW 

What would Jeff do?

The findings of the latest Media Futures research were recently unveiled by Jim Bilton. James Evelegh went along to hear how publishers are doing…

By James Evelegh

What would Jeff do?

At the unveiling of this year’s Media Futures research on Tuesday at the Havas HKX Building in London, Jim Bilton posed the question: What would Jeff Bezos do to your company if he bought it?

What he did at the Washington Post was increase headcount (journalists and engineers), invest in tech (primarily CMS and analytics), introduce a test mentality and a new culture: confident, customer driven, product focused. He also kept tight control of staff costs.

There’s a lesson there for us all, I’m sure, even those without Bezos’s deep pockets: real growth comes from investment not cost cutting.

These are some of my other takeaways from Jim’s wide-ranging presentation:

  • publishers are perennial optimists: this year was tough, but next year’s looking better, which I’m sure was the mood last year and the year before…
  • like the Mississippi, the big trends keep rolling slowly along: print decline, digital growth, ads revenue down, audience revenues up.
  • the top four investment areas show that developing existing revenue streams continues to be a priority: website, paid content, database and e-newsletters. The shiny new baubles of VR, AR, AI and VAA are there, but mainly, at this stage, the playthings of the big players.
  • publishers generally feel that they know where they are going, with company vision, culture and structure broadly where it needs to be. The main drags on progress are staffing (headcount and skills) and IT resources.

Given that the majority of benchmarked publishers feel that financial resources are sufficient, then I will go out on a limb and suggest that they spend their cash on recruitment and training.