Death of the Magazine Industry and How to Avoid the same fate

Posted: August 27, 2010 in Business Advice
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This post has come about by two seemingly unrelated events and a nice glass of wine…

Event One: Seth Godin gave a fascinating speech recently to a skeptical book publishing industry – virtually pleading with them to wake up and avoid the mistakes the music industry made when addressing the change online digital media forced upon their industry. Seth outlined how they MUST gather a tribe – that leading an audience is more important that owning products and patents. (And he is right!)

Event One-and-a-half: Magazine industry heavyweights are in a battle with Apple. They want to sell their product via iTunes – but they also want to own the information about the subscribers – after all the magazine business understands the value of the subscriber data better than the book, music and movie industries appear to. Apple believes its customers are its own and that data is private between Apple and its iTunes subscribers. The media continue to blast Apple for ‘knowing whats best’ and not be more open.

In effect – they have a Seth ‘Tribe’ and continue to pick and choose the products they wish to offer ‘their’ followers. Magazine owners have lost their biggest asset and didn’t see it coming. They have no choice but to compromise and work with Apple, Amazon and any other platform that represents a tribe.

Event Two: Facebook‘s recently got a lot of negative press about opting you in by default to public sharing of information. Whether you were OK with this or not – a lot of debate centered around Facebook making decisions on your behalf – and not making them conscious opt-in choices for you.

The Glass of Wine: My initial reaction was in line with old-think: “Boo Apple – let me choose” – but then i thought that through a bit more. As Facebook user – I do not want the rules changed without my approval – I now do not trust Facebook as much as I trust Apple and Amazon. I am comfortable giving these two organisations my credit card number and address details to make future purchases easier. I would not give this sort of information to Facebook in a million years. And there is the key insight for you:

If your customers give YOU information – treat it as you would a rare and precious gift. Don’t on-sell it. Don’t rent your customer list out. Don’t contact your customers using invented reasons to thinly disguise a naked sales drive.

Do this – and your customers will reward you with trust – and that is the most precious gift that Seth and some companies get – while the rest seem stuck in a 1930’s version of the catalog business.

So – what information do you have about your customers? How can you increase their trust in you by demonstrating to them your respect for their privacy (actions – not words)

HINT: Think of the quintessential English butler – the one that sees you at your best, worst and everything in between, knows your habits, anticipates your needs, but always acts with utmost discretion to the point you completely trust them with your life.

Forearmed is forewarned so the old saying goes – and I hope this is true for you and your business.

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