The Big Media Debate: 12 revolutionary ideas media businesses need to adopt right now

We spoke to the cream of the media crop at the LondonLovesBusiness and RBS Big Media Debate

This feature is sponsored by RBS

The media industry has undergone, and is still undergoing, rapid and drastic transformation. Successful media businesses just 15 years ago looked remarkably different to those which are doing well right now. Though it might be a challenging environment, the digital age does present some opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs.

So what can Britain do to produce game-changing media businesses?

We gathered over 15 media honchos at the Big Media roundtable at Claridge’s Hotel on 6 October 2015. Part of our series of dynamic roundtables, the event saw media bigwigs tackle topics like the shift from profitable business models to actionable ideas to support media businesses.

Take a look at 12 revolutionary ideas media companies need to adopt now:

1. Know your subject

Big traditional media businesses have been undermined by smaller challengers in the digital age. Matteo Berlucchi, CEO of Your.MD said: “Bloggers often get more readers because they’re authoritative.” Thanks to technology they’re able to expand globally, causing a shift from general local content to vertical global content.

2. Print is NOT dead

Despite the rapid switch from print to online, there are many brands which have a strong print presence. The Economist is a traditional media brand that has adapted well and maintained its print offering through being a trusted brand – meanwhile others, such as Porter magazine, have sprung up out of a strong dotcom business. There are very few people who never read anything in print.

3. Don’t mix up journalism with commercial content

Commercial articles, or advertorials, are a solid method of bringing in revenue but it’s vital for publishers to separate journalistic ethics with commercial concerns. Many businesses have a separate team for commercial editorial to eliminate conflict.

Tim Weller, chairman and CEO of Incisive Media, said his company would not jeopardise journalistic ethics even though it recently cost his business a big client.

4. Provide an attractive workplace

Big companies like Google are able to take some of the top talent from the UK because of their reputation. Small media businesses need to ensure they provide an attractive workplace, otherwise they won’t stand a chance in competing for the best staff.

Andria Vidler, CEO of Centaur Media, said: “The well-known path of starting in trade media and working your way up is gone.”

Big Media Debate

5. Get some perspective

The publishing environment has changed so quickly but some publishers still haven’t caught up. This is partly to do with not being able or willing to see problems in their own businesses. “Publishers have a very strong attachment to their businesses, and can’t see the faults,” Berlucchi said. Media companies need to keep some perspective on the industry.

6. Know who your customers are

This doesn’t mean understanding your audience, though that is important. It’s more about recognising who keeps your business in existence. Piers Diacre, CEO of IPE, put it frankly: “Don’t think of your advertisers as customers. Think of readers as your customers and the advertisers will come.”

7. Know who to talk to

“Make sure you’re speaking to the right people,” said Anna Barnard, senior relationship manager in the media and technology team at RBS. She said the investment and advice a growing business needs is there as long as you’re in contact with the people who offer it.

Sean Wood, business development director at RBS, added: “The bank are very keen on holding regular events that allow us to put business people together - enabling our customers and contacts to broaden their own networks.”

Big Media Debate

8. Have a three- or five-year plan, but don’t neglect the long-term

Many tech and media start-ups are focusing too much on a three to five-year plan and not considering how the business will support itself beyond that. Private equity investors are looking for fast-growing businesses in terms of revenue but not taking profit into account, which means many would-be disrupters are not planning for the future and would end up being unsustainable in the long-term. It’s easy to get attracted to the investment and then not be able to live up to the money, the panel warned.

9. Have an exit strategy

It’s fine to plan to sell the business – it doesn’t show a lack of commitment to shareholders, despite what some people might worry. In fact, investors often want to see a clear exit plan to ensure they will get their money back.

10. Your brand is key

“Branding is omnipotent,” said Graham Sherren, chairman of Casis Media which owns LondonLovesBusiness.com. Both consumers and advertisers buy into brands more than anything else so it’s important to ensure your brand is strong and cohesive. It can simply take time to do this though.

Big Media Debate

11. Focus on your core

Your core competency should be what you focus on and media businesses should not get carried away with other things. Hugo Drayton, CEO of Inskin Media, said: “Too many businesses try to so too much too quick.”

12. Diversify in the right way

Publishing and events go hand-in-hand. “Most publishers seem to have become exhibition organisers,” said Jonathan Scott MD of Intuitive Events. Similarly, retailers are starting to produce their own magazines and newspapers.

A huge thanks to RBS for supporting the LondonLovesBusiness Dynamic Roundtables, and to all our guests for their thoughts and time:

Steve Feigen, CEO, Abacus e-Media                    

Caroline Vernhettes, publishing director, Archant          

Shaun Wyles, investor, Brightmove Media                                                         

Graham Sherren, chairman, Casis Media  

Jenny Knighting, sales & marketing director, Casis Media                          

Andria Vidler, CEO, Centaur Media                                                        

Adrian  Tripp, CEO, European Business Awards                                                                

Tim Weller, chairman and CEO, Incisive Media                                                                

Hugo Drayton, CEO, Inskin Media

Jonathan Scott, MD, Intuitive Events                                     

Dale Lovell, chief digital officer, Adyoulike

Piers Diacre, CEO, IPE   

Matthew Robertson, chief commercial officer, NetDespatch                    

Matteo Berlucchi, CEO, Your.MD Limited

Sean Wood, business development director, corporate banking, RBS

Anna Barnard, senior relationship manager, technology media and services, RBS

Mark Middleton, corporate director, technology media and services, RBS

This feature is sponsored by RBS

 

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