AOP Summit 2011: Publishers must show courage of conviction

The opportunity to put a value on content and services should be harnessed and not feared by publishers, a panel at the AOP Digital Publishing Summit 2011 has argued.

AOP Summit 2011 panel: 'publishers must be more bullish'
AOP Summit 2011 panel: 'publishers must be more bullish'

Speaking on the panel at the conference in London this morning (14 October) were Ed Shedd, managing partner for global media and entertainment practice at Deloitte; Kevin Costello, chief executive of Haymarket Media Group; Alisa Bowen, general manager of The Wall Street Journal digital network, and Fru Hazlitt, managing director of commercial and online at ITV.

The panel said that whilst print was not yet dead, publishers needed to find ways of integrating with digital opportunities in a commercially viable way and must be more bullish when it came to putting a value on content.

Bowen, whose publication The Wall Street Journal was one of the first to implememt a paywall structure, said that the theory that consumers are not willing to pay for content has been disproven in practice.

She said: "We’ve been paid in two ways for our digital products – through advertisements and individuals.

"We have reason to be incredibly optimistic: $2.5million is the amount Apple pays out to developers on iOs platform, in an environment where people said consumers wouldn’t pay for content.

"As an industry we are regaining our confidence."

Costello, chief executive of Haymarket Media Group, the owner of Brand Republic and Media Week, told the conference that nearly 30% of the group’s revenue now comes from digital.

Costello said: "I refuse to be anything other than cheerful. We are making money online – let’s be positive about it."

Referring to the paywall structure recently implemented at Brand Republic, Costello said that "quality journalism incurs costs, but holds value".

Speaking about the dominance of Apple in new digital platforms, including iPhone and iPad apps, the panel agreed that publisher should not fear the opportunities, but need to develop ways to continue their relationships with their consumers.

Costello said: "I wouldn’t see it as a battle. We have to develop a symbiotic relationship. To a certain degree it’s another delivery channel for us.

"But we need to be able to capture information on our audience and that is clearly a concern. You don’t know who you are having a direct relationship with on Apple platforms, and we want to know who we are talking to."

Bowen said that moves by publishers like the Financial Times, to circumvent Apple apps to use HTML5, and therefore capture user data, was a bold move, but that what should be important to publishers is their readers’ preference.

She said: "I applaud the FT for prioritising customer relationships in the short term, it’s a good thing. All publishers are embracing HTML5 but some are moving faster than others – I think consumers and advertisers still really like the app experience.

"For us it’s not either or, it’s more about where consumers like."

For ITV's Hazlitt, referring to the professional broadcasters and publishers in the room, she urged a more bullish and confident attitude regarding what they were able to offer that the stream of UGC often can't.

"We are all experts at making great content that people want," she said. "Most people are boring and you don’t want to read their stuff."

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