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The needed maturation of the media business

Digiday 21 May 2020 04:01
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May 21, 2020 by Brian Morrissey

There was a bit of a sheepish tone to the publishing CRO’s admission: “Our Q2 is going to be better than last year’s,” the exec said. “I’m really proud of that. It’s been painful, but we’re more insulated because of the maturity of our diversified business model.”

It’s a refreshing change to hear that amid the doom and gloom that’s permeated media the past 10 weeks, with a particularly awful past week, marked by deep cuts at Vice Media, BuzzFeed and Quartz. In speaking with publishing executives from companies both stuck in triage mode and those who see their businesses for an upturn when the economy does spring back, there’s a common theme dividing the winners and losers: maturity.

Last week, I praised boring media models. A related concept I hear is maturity. That starts with business models. Not to pile on the big money-losing digital publishers making cuts right now, but how long were they going to tout big top-line growth while they elided the part about losing money? It calls to mind John Houseman’s classic Smith Barney ad: “They make money the old-fashioned way, they earn it.” Said one publishing exec at a top digital publisher: “Our eye is less on revenue, more on margins and profitability.” Better late than never, I suppose.

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John HousemanSmith BarneyCadbury