Collaborating is king – that’s the key message from Robyn Foyster, CEO and founder The Carousel Network, in this opinion piece, where she explores the pros of working together in the media industry.
As a former magazine editor and publisher, there was a time when I held my covers tightly to my chest and anyone caught leaking sensitive information would be summarily marched from the building.
Apart from teasing exclusive covers on TV or in the newspapers, the main objective was to make as much noise as possible at the newsstands and let a show stopping ‘get off the bus and buy’ cover do the talking.
There were no instant analytics. We saw our competitors’ offerings prior to the results coming in days later and could only rely on our gut and word of mouth to determine the sales stand victor. The first day of print sales determined whether we had won the weekly or monthly battle for print sales.
Sharing or collaborating with anyone, least of all your competitors, was a complete anathema. But while we fought fiercely for print sales, our competition was limited to a small pond of publishers and we all swam in Australian waters, not today’s global arena.
Yes, collaboration in business existed with partnerships and alliances but not when it came to our fellow publishers. Then with the digital world came disruption and the concept of collaborating, sharing and working together with fellow publishers started to creep in.
The more savvy realised early that cross collaboration could be a huge advantage…and a powerful marketing tool. And one that did not cost a single bean. The words ‘viral content’ crept into our vocabulary.
Disruption meant that everyone became publishers and some individuals have and are still growing universal influence and even usurping the power base of traditional publishers. Think Elise Strachan from My Cupcake Addiction. She has emerged in just four years to grow an international audience that dwarfs our biggest selling magazine The Australian Women’s Weekly in audience and social media influence and her reach is global.
Yet she is one woman but one with a strong ability to create engaging content. Nine million followers and growing with a monthly online reach in excess of 100 million, Elise is a powerhouse and one we should be proud of. She recently moved to the United States with her family, is working on her own TV series, is a regular on American breakfast TV and has forged a strong partnership with brands like Nestle and KitKat.
Publishers and brands have now embraced the world of the influencer. Four years ago, as publisher of Harper’s BAZAAR, we started working with fashion bloggers. But even then that didn’t mean we would promote a story from a rival publisher, not like we’ve just seen with Vogue’s Princess Mary cover which was shared not just by us but by AWW. Yes, Bauer happily promoted News Ltds’ Vogue cover.
Here, I would like to examine the benefits of collaborating – both in business and as a publisher.
As the publisher and founder of the women’s lifestyle site The Carousel, we derive revenue from The Carousel website through native content and display advertising as well as create content via the Carousel Productions, our content marketing arm. We are nimble and innovative.
We have grown our audience by collaborating with a pool of expert contributors and influencers. We cross collaborate on content and revel in sharing their stories and amplifying it via our own social media and our contributor’s networks.
Through this, we have grown our own audience and promoted other sites and happily promote the sites of other publishers producing good content. Cross collaboration among other publishers is now commonplace.
It’s been a hugely successful strategy for some larger publishers abroad from the blogging network Blogher to health sites such as Mind Body Green. Like The Carousel, they share, promote and act as a platform to tell the stories of their contributors/influencers.
Sharing is the new norm. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat are the go to destinations for sharing. It’s the main destination for news, especially for younger consumers, and as a result has become a material threat to traditional news brands.
Earlier on, traditional publishers could have combined forces to be a social media platform themselves but the concept of sharing at the time wasn’t done, nor considered enough as to how it could have ultimately been brought together as a unifying platform that could have transformed their business and made them a force for Facebook and Snapchat to reckon with.
Traditional publishers are, however, increasingly growing revenue and profit by forming alliances and bundling. Publishers are bundling content such as magazine companies who use the likes of Mag Shop or Next Issue Media (recently renamed Texture) – a third party organisation to bundle magazine sales.
Here consumers pay a flat one month flat fee and the newspaper industry launched its own cross title bundle, Blendle, which has nearly one million registered users after its first two years of operation in Europe and will launch in the US with up to 20 titles.
Advertisers are bundling publisher inventory with programmatic sales.
Branded content has emerged as an important revenue stream. Essentially, this involves sharing and collaborating with brands by telling their brand stories and publishers are now hiring from advertising and marketing companies, while editors are better equipping themselves to manage editorial and the art of telling their brand partners stories.
Speed is a digital necessity, and our ability and desire to test new ideas and concepts while accepting that some will fail is part of the process. The need to evolve and work out quickly what works best and build on that success at break-neck speed is evident. There is more need than ever to innovate and build a culture that allows that process to happen quickly. In doing so, we’ll not only build our revenues but reenergise our brands.
This means being across new technologies as they continue to advance, and keep on revisiting them and continually revise our strategies to stay on top and relevant.
More than ever before, we need to be forward thinking and realise that progress must follow progress. There has never been more urgency for that to happen than now given the fast evolving environment we play in.
Our strength has been in partnering up with other publishers. We recently formed The Carousel Network where we group sell The Carousel with other premium publishers. Our group currently includes Stay At Home Mum and Pages Digital, which collectively reaches 1.1 million uniques per month and has a reach of 750k social media in the female 25 + demographic. It’s a true collaboration. We share insights and cross promote and there are benefits of cross selling as it allows us to compete with bigger media outlets.
The Carousel Network was formed with the view that working collaboratively with other publishers is the smart way forward if we are going to look at a strong future of influence and reach.
So whilst The Carousel is in itself a collaboration of contributors and influencers, to some degree that journey was made easier by disruption – the fall out of mainstream journalism and the big publishers, meant we could snap up great talent.
Our strength is we have learned to collaborate. We share our content and love our content to be shared. And when it is, we wear it as a badge of honour. It’s certainly a far cry from my days editing and publishing magazines.