UK AOP: Five challenges for online publishing

I’m of at the UK Association of Online Publishers. The keynote is about how to compete in a new economy, giving by Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, so my boss’s boss’s boss, or some such high level above my head.

She laid out five challenges for online publishers:

1) Our brands and our staff are the foundation of our future. This didn’t wow me at first, but then she started to talk about online brand tracking. I don’t think (and Suw will tell you) that companies are doing too little to monitor how their brands are being talked about online.

Dell Computer’s business is a little soft. Did Jeff Jarvis’ continual drumbeat of discontent on Buzzmachine play a part? Definitely. Hard to say how much. But he’s offering them suggestions.

2) Stay close to your users. She mentioned that Flickr doesn’t even talk about users but talks constantly about community. This is one opportunity that bloggers like Robert Scoble understand implicitly, but publishers don’t yet. Blogging is an opportunity to listen as well as publish.

3) Innovate to learn. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You have to start somewhere.

4) Excel at software development. Our best developers are as important as our best journalists. Adrian Holovaty will be cheered to hear that his message is getting out.

5) Drive digital revenue growth as soon as possible. I’m not a hard-core money maker, but I feel very strongly about the importance of quality journalism, which costs money and takes time. It’s desperately expensive, but without getting into the pro-am debate, it’s also pretty important. Newspaper revenues are in collapse in the US, well at least they are declining from the double digit margins of the past. But to continue to pay for quality journalism, the revenue model has to change.

Torin Douglas asked who has time to read Comment is Free, the Guardian’s mega commentary site. Carolyn, honestly said, that she only goes there a couple a times a week to get a flavour of what people are saying about Iraq or the Labour Party.