Sunday, July 11, 2010

Publishers Test Revenue Boundaries

I suspect the recruitment ad from 435 Digital Services for a “social media guru” caught the eye of many a communications professional in search of a new career opportunity.

Was 435 Digital Services a hot, new start-up? The newly formed interactive division of a large ad agency? Or a spin-off of a public relations firm?

No…no…and no. As it turns out, 435 Digital Services is a recently launched consulting initiative from dusty, old school (and still bankrupt) publisher Tribune Companies.

This stab to provide digital and social media marketing services spawned from the Tribune Companies’ Chicago Now blog network. When sales reps attempted to push ad buys, they found that many of their target advertisers knew little about attracting commerce via online channels or search engine optimization.

435 Digital Services was born as an experiment to help the publisher develop new revenue streams.

“We think creating a special group dedicated to that idea is worth trying,” said Bill Adee, the publisher’s digital department vice president.

In another corner of the publishing world, Jonah Bloom, CEO and editor in chief of Breaking Media, is also hip deep in revenue experimentation. Reader access to content archives, conferences and…yes…even journalists may soon be the sole domain of premium subscribers.

Plus, Bloom predicts the adoption of a direct sales model by publishers. For instance, a reader could purchase a book reviewed by the publication.

Hmmm…I wonder what that sales motivation might do to journalistic integrity and third-party objectivity.

This thrashing about for potential new sources of revenue is a wise move by publishers as its clear the traditional advertising-supported model is no longer viable.

It’s also further validation of my contention of a dramatic and sustained shift in influence from traditional sources of creditability to social networks and online communities.

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