Time to Reassess With Whom You Compete and Cooperate

By Thomas R. Temin
Media and Government Consulting

After nearly three decades in print B2B journalism, I find it hard to get the classic model out of my head. There’s an audience; there’s a set of advertisers; and there is a publishing company that hires the people necessary to sell, produce and market a magazine. It has printing contracts and people who understand the postal service.

As the editor, you have a fleet of reporters, two or three if a small magazine, more if a big one. You get the idea.

But two developments in my own career in the business-to-government market have changed my world view of the centricity of traditional magazines.

The first development is my joining the world of radio broadcasting. I host a show on a station that focuses on the federal government—makes sense in Washington, D.C. A kind of B2B magazine of the air, it covers many of the same topics as the magazines I used to edit and compete with. But on the air, we borrow heavily from the B2B magazines and web sites that compete with us in the market. Nobody minds. We take care to attribute the stories we quote, but the real benefit to the magazines is, their stories get amplified and redistributed in a value-added way, the added value being our commentary, and the immediacy and liveliness of radio. We get material that augments our small reporting staff and roster of live guests each morning.

Everyone seems okay with the arrangement. Sometimes, the publications attribute a story to our radio station.

The second development is a new web site developed by a large, local advertising and PR agency. I work on a retainer basis as the editor of its large list of contributors, some quite prominent, all of whom are in the same field, government, both federal managers and contract workers. This site has a place for any visitor to post information — white papers, videos, press releases, you name it. The agency has an industry e-mail list of more than 40,000 to which to market this site, and it is operated independently of the agency and its clients.

So you see? What many editors thought was competition can actually be complementary media, at least editorially. And what you might have thought was irrelevant can become a competitor. Although our radio station is on both the Internet and the AM band, many new stations are Internet-only. So neither publishers nor broadcasters have the expensive barriers to entry they faced yesteryear.

New competitors are hitting traditional publications from a variety of sources, all digital. With stealthy marketing, these online offerings can capture readers and advertisers before your publishing staff is even aware of them.

This means editors have to be less parochial about sources of material than they used to be — not so much repurposing what other people publish, but willing to form cooperative arrangements for content. And it means something you’ve known forever. That is, you’ve got to stay really close to the audience and the market so you don’t get taken by surprise.

Thomas R. Temin is a consultant with 30 years of publishing experience in media and information technology products and services. He is co-host of “The Federal Drive” with Tom Temin and Jane Norris, a weekday morning news and talk program on Federal News Radio AM 1050 in Washington D.C. You can see his weekly column on the op-ed page at www.federalnewsradio.com and contact him at tom.temin@gmail.com.

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