Last Fall, I attended the international conference of the Federation of International Periodical Publishers (FIPP) in Rome. Once again, the refrain "Go Digital!" was sung during two days by a full set of speakers, both from the vendor side and from the publishing world. Actually, it was not so much a "move away from print" speech as a lack of understanding of this traditional business that really struck me in those sessions. Multiple presentations around brand extension, social networking and new revenue streams were largely shown by the gurus of this new world. And when an "old timer" came on the stage to present about traditional print, the audience did not really take him seriously. However, the final conclusion brought everybody back to earth. The three executives that were interviewed at the end the conference - especially Carlo Mandelli from Mondadori - did not avoid the evidence: digital was still a small revenue stream without any profit, and still unable to take over the revenue coming from print activities.
So is the publishing business at an impasse today in the fight between digital and print?
When one takes the time to follow key players in the market, Advantage clients or others that have been identified with successful models, it seems clear to me that the near future will be more a combination than a transfer between print and digital. During the FIPP conference, Allessandro Belloni, CEO of the large book club player De Agostini, gave an example of what seems a viable path to follow. From his traditional paper issue sent or sold through the newsstand with collection products, his company has been moving the model to access to a universe that you can get to through a subscription. In this full universe, the paper issue and the goodies are now combined with a social network structured around a dedicated website, and videos to provide additional training and explanation. In France, another example is a pure web player specializing in cooking, Marmitton, who decided after 6 years to create a print magazine as an extension of its website. In this combination, the magazine carries a selection of the best pieces of the web, with real journalistic work to structure and enhance the selected topics. Closer to AdvantageCS, I have been observing in recent digital initiatives that packages combining digital with print overshadow pure web subscriptions.
This combination of content in different formats has its implications in the way subscriptions should work. We are moving away from a subscription to a single product to subscribing to a "brand" that combines various components - issues, access, training, products, etc. This is why I was excited with the 2013R1 release of Advantage and the introduction of the concept of an "agreement package." Instead of being simply a gathering of different products as traditional packages, the agreement package provides power for a real "super subscription" - carrying a duration, a unique payment and a list of participants accessing the products. It now repreents an umbrella with a grouping of different print, product and digital components.
So if you are due to upgrade soon to a new release of Advantage (2013r1+), keep an eye on this new feature: it may provide an opportunity for you to build some of your B2C future in the coming years.