Wednesday 09, August 2017 by Georgina Enzer

Evolving past vanity publishing

In the highly competitive magazine business, it is essential to have the right tools at your disposal, to keep up with, and exceed your closest competition’s goals.

It's no longer about having the prettiest physical pages, or the smiliest face on the cover. From a top-notch website, to good video editing software and cameras, in the media your tools are now your trade.

If your website lacks functionality, but your competitor has a fancy new CMS that is easily updated, a modular website build that allows for widgets to be dropped in, or a simpler, quicker way of uploading stories, videos and photos, then, no matter how hard you try, and no matter how many smiling faces you put on the cover, your business will suffer and your competitors will gain an edge.

The fight to be first is essential in media, in particular in getting news online, if you aren’t first, you may as well be last. No matter what clever ideas the writing and content creation teams come up with, if they cannot be executed correctly and quickly, your competitor will take your idea and do it better. There is that phrase that 'imitation is a form of flattery', but when it comes to content creation, imitation, when it is done better, means a loss of customers, readers, and ultimately money. Imitation can be particularly depressing for the content creation teams that came up with the idea in the first place, they watch their brilliant idea being turned into what it should have been.

In lean times, it is even more important to keep up to date, you don’t want to lose the revenue you have to a competitor who does it better, your company should be the one leading the pack. More money should be spent on keeping your technology up to date, whether that means cutting back on the paperclip budget, or thinking of better ways to utilise existing resources.

No media company can afford to sit on its laurels in this day and age, particularly in the UAE where the market has gone from two or three major publishing houses to over a dozen small, medium, and massive publishing houses.

There are 350,000 SMEs in the UAE, they employ 86 per cent of the work force, and create 60 per cent of the GDP. Where there used to be one magazine catering to small and medium businesses in the UAE seven or eight years ago, there are now at least five. This means each one has to work harder for its market share, come up with better online and magazines strategies, better and more appealing magazine designs, and better ways to engage with their shared audience.

So, what can a small publishing house do to keep up with its bigger competitors? Invest in technology. Social media and online is the best way to engage with your audience, build creative interactive platforms to grab your customers’ attention. Vlog, blog, and poll your audience, get their opinion, ask them what they want, and then build on that.

Secondly, build a better presence for the magazine, send your editors to every event going, get them on panels, splash their face all over the place. If your audience knows who you are and has a personal connection they are more likely to engage with you and drive your numbers up (both financially and in terms of viewership).

The old model of ‘here is a magazine, look your face is on it’, is not going to work anymore. People want more, expect more, and vanity publishing is no longer enough.