Friday, May 18, 2007

Emap still twitching: A response

As an emap employee I suppose it's inevitable I get drawn into this one. The Daily Telegraph* - commenting on the departure of emap CEO Tom Moloney in the article 'emap still twitching but needs to be put out of its misery' says of niche brand Bird Watching's website:

"Visiting the magazine's website is less interesting than a visit to those Victorian glass cases in the Natural History Museum. Museums were the 19th century's version of interaction and too many of Emap's myriad media brands are way behind the curve when it comes to 21st century publishing.

"Birdwatching.co.uk ought to be a teeming community website for what I imagine is Britain's rather large bird-watching population. It should be swarming with readers' blogs, videos and pictures, reader offers, adverts, events - you name it, Emap should have it to publish the definitive bird-watching website."

Why yes, of course it should. But let's be fair. emap's media brands might be a tad slow on applying Reed's law (see group forming network theory under 'resources', left col), but they (we) ain't exactly unique in this.

Please show me a specialist traditional media brand which has activated this and (small, but important point) has done this while retaining or even growing its brand's profits as a whole? Off the top of my head I can't think of one. I am genuinely interested in seeing examples - please do share.

emap's issue has been to find a scalable solution worth the investment. If Moloney had sanctioned full social media plays for every single one of his brands the financial pages would soon have screamed foul.

I take the general point - emap should have built the ideal community platform for those with a shared interest in bird watching. But it should also have done that for model railway enthusiasts, trout fishermen, classic car enthusiasts, Land Rover owners, etc etc etc (and a truck-load more of a etcs).

The brand-focused approach has (it seems to me - and I'm just a humble employee - I haven't set the strategy) resulted in a focus on the 'big brands' driven by the 'big revenues' already earned - not necessarily the big potentials (eg Bird Watching).

I think (and we'll all hear more with the statement to the city on May 22) emap is shifting to a market-focused approach which ought to change our priorities. If we couple that with a community-dominated approach - hurrah!

Some may conclude that protecting legacies is just too great a drag for media companies faced with start-ups who don't have these issues, are prepared to cede control to their communities and have no 'core business' to protect.

But I think their advantages are neatly counter-balanced by our access to audiences and insight into niche markets. Which is why I wrote 'End of the retreat: How Media is the new business' only last week.

Don't get me wrong - there are lessons to be applied - but I do believe we've learned them.


*The Daily Telegraph is not owned by emap - could you tell?

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?