Inspiration from The Economist’s Paul Rossi

June 2, 2009

I had a good time this evening at the opening of MagNet and Paul Rossi’s talk “Building a Media Brand for the Future”. Registration in the conference is apparently way up this year and I think despite the ubiquitous doom and gloom of 2009 (perhaps inspiring the tragic Toronto weather), the mood in the talk and the room was one of optimism that magazines, with the right investment (not just of money, but of time and faith and great ideas), will continue to find a devoted readership even in the midst of the immense technological and consumer shifts we’re seeing in our culture.

The main theme in Rossi’s talk was of building a product for readers and of shifting your economic dependence as far toward readers and away from advertisers as possible. He also spoke on the importance of maintaining a strong brand across all platforms, even down to the colour of your subscription card inserts. His examples of some of The Economist’s branding strategies were so convincing that I’m ready to pick up a copy, which I don’t think I’ve done since I was a Poli Sci undergrad late last century. (I shared a subscription with a friend – we couldn’t afford our own.)

So how does this relate to the web? Rossi touched upon their website only briefly but two key points stand out to me. First, he maintained that the idea of web readership cannibalizing print subscriptions is a myth – they haven’t seen any evidence of that happening. Second, his emphasis on producing a quality product above all other goals applies to all platforms, not just print. In the future (which is now), readers consume their media across multiple platforms – don’t let a poorly attended-to website pull down your brand.

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