Saturday, August 01, 2009

Creators of Good Content Are Key Assets

When we witness the changes within the newspaper sector we see many journalists laid off whist the owners grapple with debt repayments, print and distribution fixed costs and volatile advertising revenues. However if we accept that Content is always King and being able to produce good content is a valuable asset, then is it wise to lay off the goose that could lay the golden egg and retain the mechanics that merely incur cost?

We have been reading interesting and thought provoking articles in Publishing 2.0 and by Mike Arrington at Techcrunch. They focus on AOL’s content strategy under its new CEO, Tim Armstrong. Whilst newspapers have released their journalists AOL has been acquiring them in order to build its online content driven powerhouse. Arrington points out that AOL assets now include former journalists from BusinessWeek, New York Times, USA Today, ESPN, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Consumer Reports, Condé Nast and scores of regional and national newspapers and magazines. He even lists a number of these people and their respective resumes. It is claimed that AOL now has double the workforce they had a year ago, with some 500 full time writers and editors, plus a further 1,500 freelancers.

Why did newspapers make so many newsroom cuts? Why did they cut the people who actually reported and commented on the news?

AOL are building and buying scores of online media brands. Acquisitions such as Weblogs have continued to grow and their MediaGlow division has some reported 76 million unique monthly visitors (Comsore, May 2009) and AOL boasts 27 of the Technorati Top 100 blogs. With a policy to focus on the content and talent, new brands can be created at little cost and importantly the writers are available to make it happen.

Publishing 2.0 goes on to describe AOL’s Politico, which showcases its high profile journalists and their by-lines on every story. Interestingly, it is claimed that half their annual $15 million revenues comes from a print edition. However the print follows the digital edition and is targeted at a highly valuable niche market.

Authors, journalists, illustrators, photographers, creators are any publishing and media companies’ most valuable assets and it both interesting and refreshing to read how AOL have recognised that.

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