In his popular Reflections of a Newsosaur blog yesterday, Alan Mutter wrote of “the abundant population of non-readers in every community represent[ing] a substantial base of potential consumers for the transformative and delightful new products that publishers could bring to market—if they put their minds to it.”
He was talking about newspapers but could easily have been referring to niche publishers. His point was that publishers don’t put enough emphasis on audience development and new product launches. The difference with niche publishers—from newspapers—is that most have made an excellent digital transition. That should pave the way for younger and more diverse audiences. Should.
In March, David Foster, president of Business Valuation Resources, conducted a webinar for SIPA on Nine Essential Steps for Growing New Products in 2013. (It is available to members in the archives. Also check out the other great webinars there.) Here are the key factors he emphasized to help publishers grow their revenue:
1. Does this growth increase your range of price points?
2. Does this strengthen—and not compete with—your current marketing and sales channels?With particular focus on more complex sales distinctions.
3. Does this growth improve your technological “nimbleness”? (Is everyone still on the same, or one, page?)
4. Does this growth improve one of these metrics, and by how much? (Leads, conversions, retention, partners, sponsors, etc.)
5. Does this growth decrease your average time from conception to first revenues? “New product development is a central testing strategy.”
6. Does this growth allow you to accelerate content creation by integrating customer content? Does this growth increase the definition of customer data?
7. Does this growth move you closer to anticipating your customers’ future? Can you add real-time or even predictive modeling to your product?
8. Does this core market growth also align easily with your key secondary markets?
9. Will your sales and marketing leaders be embarrassed to describe how this project fits? Are the sales and marketing resources needed to succeed clear, identifiable, and sensible to an objective outsider?
And a bonus number 10: Does this growth strengthen your management team and governance structure?
The question to ask, based on both Foster and Mutter, is who is charged with creating new products at your business and is he or she or them being given the proper time. And to a lesser extent, are there strong mobile capabilities in the idea?
The famous line—it’s not in my job description—may apply here. Mutter talks about the task of audience building being handed to the circulation manager or marketing department. Instead, he argues that it “is the responsibility of everyone in the building.” Similarly, Foster complimented one company’s new initiative by saying that “each of their managers knows exactly what they’re responsible for.” In addition, his striving for technological nimbleness involves everyone—database, website, IT, financial. They should all be a part of the process, he would argue.
In an article in Sunday’s Washington Post, Jeremy Hutchison-Krupat, assistant professor of business administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, wrote about a phased approach to product development that aims to “reduce uncertainty by noting potential issues with a product early on.” So bad ideas are abandoned and good ideas are improved upon.
“Preliminary launch decisions need to balance an ability to showcase a product and enter profitable markets with an ability to learn as much as possible within whatever limited time is available,” Hutchison-Krupat wrote. In his webinar, Foster spoke about “making bets that are big enough to have an upside if they succeed, but not so big that one failure and you can’t do anything else.” It is indeed a balancing act—or perhaps more aptly the Goldilocks approach.
Just the fairy-tale finish I was hoping for.
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline