The publishing industry, like other media channels has challenges. It's not all doom and gloom as last week's Australian Magazine Awards showed, but just last week Bauer axed more print titles saying they simply didn't get enough support. The titles lacked both support from audiences and advertisers, and it points to the struggles of the ad-funded model.
Private Media Founder and CEO Eric Beecher, who last week was inducted into the Magazine Hall of Fame, believes niche publishing is the future of publishing, and offers a commercial model that can survive in the long-term.
The company says its sites are custom-built for “small, exclusive networks”. Among others, Private Media’s assets include subscription politics site Crikey, StartUpSmart and niche site The Mandarin, which is targeted at public sector leaders - high-end decision makers in Australian policy.
When he talks about niche, Beecher doesn't mean small audiences defined by professions or hobbies. It’s more about the business model that supports and audiences appetite for content and believes a niche is about psychographics as well as demographics.
“In news publishing, and magazines and newspapers and their digital equivalents, the world is divided even more into mass and niche.
“In digital, it was always believed that if you had an audience on digital you would be able to monetise that with decent CPMs. Well, all the CPMs have collapsed and print advertising has collapsed as well. Because the barriers for entry are so low, there are vast numbers of news websites just chasing eyeballs.
“My view is that alongside that model of chasing eyeballs, strapping as much programmatic advertising on and giving the content away, there is a clear delineation which is becoming appreciated by consumers and to advertisers, which is niches. Big and small, where the content is highly bespoke, talks to an audience with a personality and a tone, depth of content and relevance that mass media can never do.”
“Specialist publications are always much closer to that audience. In my view that is circumventing a lot of the structural challenges that the rest of media is facing. It doesn't matter what size of audience you have, it’s hard to monetise, so it’s not about size of audience it’s about quality of audience. But don’t just say that, deliver it in a way audiences understands and advertisers understand.”
As an example he points to US news site Axios that is trying to redefine political journalism by delivering shorter pieces, rather than in-depth long form copy.
“It’s very short, almost bullet point, journalism. To me that’s a niche audience because it’s competing with mass audience but it’s doing it in a different way. It’s aimed at a high level of politics followers, it’s really insightful, but they’ve reached the decision that quantity [of words] doesn’t always mean quality,” he explains.
Ahead of accepting his Hall of Fame honour, Beecher told AdNews his “guiding motivation” and what keeps him inspired in publishing is quality journalism.
“That’s always been my point of view. It's so important to the workings of democracy.”
In recent years he has been motivated by the challenge and opportunities of reinventing new models of publishing that work to serve both audiences and a commercial agenda.
“I would never publish something that is purely commercial, but at the same time I wouldn’t publish something that can't survive commercially. It's enormously satisfying in current times, as everything is unravelling, to find new models that are going to survive long-term.”
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