One of my day-to-day challenges in speaking to publishers about their digital plans is to understand the structure of the company and where the digital buck stops. In very small publishers this is easy because the founder and owner is usually also head of editorial, marketing guru, director of all-things-digital and probably makes the tea too. They are also usually very keen to explore new distribution routes for their magazine/s and are agile in their decision making processes.
Small to mid- size publishers tend to have a hierarchy but I can usually be sure that the publisher or circulation director will be available. I can also usually rely on the fact that they will have the decision making power to quickly decide that selling magazines in a digital web format is a no-brainer in terms of increasing their subscriptions and, therefore, revenues.
The ‘big five’ of magazine publishers have had more of a challenge on their hands in dealing with the digital landscape. The more magazines being published, the more people involved, the more meetings to be organised, the more decisions to be made. Or are there more decisions to be made? Or is it that once a publishing house reaches a certain size its employees begin to operate within a living and breathing Venn Diagram? A situation where each job specification slightly overlaps another meaning that decisions are often required to go back and forth until they move out of the overlapping territory and into the safety of the free area within circle A or B.
I made a list of the job titles that I have come across during my recent meetings and conversations with one publishing company: Digital Director, Online Subscriptions Manager, Head of Marketing, Digital Development Director, Head of Digital Marketing, Head of Online, Marketing and Strategy Director, Head of New Business Development Digital and Circulation Director are just some that appear on the list.
To an outsider it is hard to navigate. Its rather like playing the children’s game where something is concealed and you are told whether you are getting ‘warmer’ or ‘colder’ depending on how close you are to the hidden object. Perhaps colour -coding could be introduced and someone could flash a red light when you are ‘hot’ and close to the ‘hidden’ centre of digital decisions.