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Q&A: DBS, helping publishers develop better distribution and editorial strategies

Dowling, Best and Smith (DBS) was founded in 2018 by a group of marketing, advertising and publishing professionals. Based in the UK, the consultancy has a simple set of goals – helping publishers develop editorial distribution and revenue strategies that enable the sustainable production of quality content in an increasingly platform-dominated and digital media environment. WNIP caught up with DBS’ Managing Director, Greig Dowling, to find out more.

What business problem is your company addressing?

‘We are living through the white heat of technological change that is happening faster than anyone can predict or understand.’ – Bo Sacks

The publishing industry is in crisis! The constant change in media consumption habits and increased competition for attention and revenue means that publishers of all types are in a never-ending struggle to provide value to their customers and secure their survival.

As I wrote on LinkedIn earlier this year, it’s an ‘Uncertain and Volatile Future for Publishing Industry’.

Publishers now find themselves in a position where they cannot rely on any one, single commercial channel – they need to diversify their revenue portfolio and content strategies if they want to survive. For the revenue part, commentator Peter Houston refers to the mix of six.

Publishers that have successfully managed to develop incremental revenue streams have done so by productizing an audience need and leveraging their customers’ behaviour to create a destination or solution that provides REAL value.

Here are a few good examples;

–          NYT Crossword app

–          India’s Times Internet Limited (TIL) virtual currency

–          Future Publishing eCommerce programme

Every publisher has its own unique set of challenges and an audience with their own unique set of habits and behaviors, so the key is marrying these up, right? Yes, but it’s not as easy as that, and the key here is navigating the white heat of technological change.  

What is your core product addressing this problem?

We don’t have an API you can plug into which analyses your business and using a proprietary algorithm pumps out a solution….!

What we do have is over 50 years of experience and a strong network of professionals spanning the marketing, advertising and publishing sectors. Most of all though we love what we do and we’re very, very good at helping publishers build sustainable revenue and editorial distribution models.

We have a three-stage process that begins with audit and analysis. Below is a snapshot of the areas we delve into;

1.      Audit and Analysis

a.   Content

b.   Audience Behavior

c.    Social (organic/paid)

d.   Site Structure

e.   Revenue channels….(etc..)

Our painstaking audit process allows us to build a programme of action and a strategic roadmap for success specific to the client’s challenges.

Stage two and three of the process takes on a more direct relationship with individual client teams to help begin implementing and optimizing new processes and proxies.

Can you give some examples of publishers successfully using your services?

A leading digital publisher in the science and technology sector asked us to help increase engagement, reduce bounce and drive up revenues across their online properties.

After an in-depth audit process we were able to work directly with the publisher’s heads of department to help implement revised content, social and commercial strategies.

Within twelve months we were able to deliver increases across the board and continue to have a great relationship with the publisher today.

The full case study can be found here

What are your pricing tiers?

Dowling, Best and Smith operates as a consultancy and prices are worked out on an hourly rate, however, flexible pricing structures based on performance can be negotiated based on requirements.

What are other people doing in the space and why?

Consultancies aren’t new – there are many ex-publishing professionals turned consultants. However, there are few, if any, publisher-focused consultancies who have the level of resources and experience that we can draw from at DBS.

How you do view the future?

It’s paramount for publishers to ensure content strategies evolve at the same pace as the trend in consumer habits. They also need to use first-party data to create destinations and services that provide real value by productizing audience needs and behaviors.

The future holds no silver-bullets to success and it’s not about a pivot to anything. Rather, it’s a hard slog to constantly innovate to provide your audience with that unique point of difference they can’t or won’t want to go anywhere else to get.

‘Don’t expect a period of equilibrium but rather a time of continuous change. We have to honestly accept that continuing transformation is now a permanent state of being’ – Bo Sacks

Thank you.

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