I attended the MT Live conference  ‘Future of Work’ conference last week and was blown away by the quality of the content. The speakers (including a Skype to Cannes with Martin Sorrell) were brilliantly chosen and the whole event had a coherence and relevance that kept the audience engaged.

Patrick Fuller

Patrick Fuller

Why was that? Because the MT editorial team flatplanned it. Those judgements are based on years of collective experience and remind us why, before digital, consumers were happy to pay a cover price for their media.

Publishers often undervalue their core skills when tackling this challenge, sometimes failing to apply their years of product development experience to the emerging business models.

For example, the notion of ‘fair exchange’ exists between publisher and audience, where a reader is prepared to share their data in return for information that helps them to make a buying decision (cars, cycles, home entertainment etc). Publishers are expert at creating independent information and presenting it in a user-friendly way, something even brands such as Amazon and eBay are still trying to get right.PistonHeads is one of Haymarket’s transactional model success stories, with the majority of the seven-figure revenues coming from used car classifieds.

The root of this is an ‘editorial’ approach to classifieds, underpinned by the assumption that enthusiast consumers enjoy browsing cars as much as buying them. Just like good editorial, that means big pictures, unrestricted descriptions that reflect the unique character of the car/seller, data and history.

PistonHeads classifieds is a consumer product in its own right, with the bonus that it generates healthy response for car dealers who use it to sell cars.

I can see an opportunity for publishers, who have a profound understanding of what interests their audiences, to use their UX skills to engage shoppers in all areas of retail.

Asos were a trendsetter in retail, but few have followed them. Part of that is a shortage of (or perhaps a lack of appreciation for) those editorial skills of product selection and description to keep people interested.

The perfect marriage is a technology company that can provide a platform and a publisher that can bring the content to life, backed by audience insight.

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