Rule No. 4: Use the transparency of the digital platform to understand customer demand
"Digital gives you incredible transparency into exactly what customers want, why they come to you, where they come from, why they stay. You need to understand this, and leverage the data to better align your resources to make sure you are creating a product that is positioned for growth on the audience side, and then use the data to figure out how to monetize that product."
Young explained how such a deep dive into Web site performance data "allowed us to understand that a disproportionate amount of revenue was flowing through one type of content, product reviews, and even specific categories of reviews. That knowledge allowed us to reallocate resources to add to that opportunity. So it is a constant optimization process."
Rule No. 5: Understand there is a constant evolution of business models inherent in digital media
"Unlike print, digital reinvents itself constantly. You need to be constantly in tune with new models that are emerging, and old models that are dying. It's scary to say a model that has been around for only two years is old and obsolete, but that is happening. Now, Kindle is showing is that there is, in fact, a community of digital readers who are willing to pay for content. The fastest growing category of subscriptions on the Kindle is subscriptions to blogs. How crazy is that? Blogs, which in their prior existence have never been paid for, are being paid for on Kindle."
In closing, Young acknowledged that Ziff Davis Media "is a smaller economic proposition than we had in 2001, but it is profitable, it touches more readers, and we see a path to future growth. And I have less hair, it's true, but I'm here, and I can tell you there is a path to the other side. Timing is the difference between life and death. It's a race to achieve enough digital scale to preserve the brand platform. But unlimited opportunity awaits the great brands in the digital world."
Mike Azzara is a longtime B2B media executive covering the high-technology industry, now Chief Content Strategist for Kilter, the branded content marketing arm of Stein Rogan + Partners. Mike also advises media software startup mSpoke, and tries his best to consult with media companies beginning to deal with Internet effects he's already lived through-but they insist on making the same mistakes on their own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.