Digital Innovation Digital Publishing
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“Don’t let a good crisis go to waste”: How 2020 has changed Inc. magazine

Today we hear from Scott Omelianuk, Inc. Magazine’s Editor in Chief. He talks about how starting his new job just before lockdown affected Inc.’s plans for change, how their content strategy has shifted in response to a momentous year in politics, and the thinking behind their new texting subscription service. He also explains why media businesses need a process before trying new platforms.

In the news roundup the team discusses BuzzFeed buying HuffPost, Google’s payments to French publishers, and the whys and wherefores of launching a one-off print comic book for grown-ups.

Here are some highlights:

Opportunities from lockdown

It changed everything, really. First and foremost, we lost a big piece of revenue that would have been associated with events that we hold during the SXSW conference that obviously was cancelled. We came up with the idea to very quickly pivot to some streaming video events and did that successfully with some significant names. People like Mark Cuban and Daymond John, famous entrepreneurs.

So we suddenly had another business that has proven to have been really useful for us and a significant revenue generator. But of course that came out of the crisis, right? And the lesson there really is, don’t let a good crisis go to waste, in a way!

It’s an opportunity to experiment, because you don’t have a choice. You can continue to do what you did, and you’ll watch yourself decline. Or you can be nimble and try to find new ways.

Covering business during the election

There used to be a time when you could say, ‘Well, that’s business, we don’t have to talk about politics.’ But at a certain point, business and politics do intersect, and it’s hard to talk about one without the other.

Our audience is more conservative than I am, for example. And I understand that, and yet at the same time, I also understand things like, no matter who is in power, uncertainty is the enemy of moving forward economically. I think that’s something worth talking about. Outlining realities for people in terms of, this is a government with an active legislation toward supporting small business and helping it in a time of crisis is more useful than one that’s ignoring it.

And so I think we can and do look at it that way, what can the government be doing? Is there a coherence in policy? And if not, what needs to be there? And so that’s how we’ve discussed it.

Serving an audience across different mediums

Our role is to support small business and how we do that really will ultimately be dictated by our audience. So they will tell us at some point, perhaps, they don’t want a magazine anymore. And that will be okay, because we’ll serve them in another way.

One of the ways we’re serving them now is something called Subtext where a handful of our most read columnists or reporters are able to have a texting relationship with some of our audience.

It’s a subscription offer. You pay monthly or by the year, but you have a more intimate and more two way communication with our columnists, our reporters, and our editors. And I think that’s something that’s really valuable for our audience.

Inc.’s longer-term plans for their texting service

I know that a Subtext subscription costs more than a magazine subscription. It does not have the associated manufacturing and distribution costs with it. So the economic model is quite different. I could end up with a much smaller audience, but a much more passionate audience, or one that I can charge more for, because they’re that passionate. And that might be okay.

So no, I don’t expect Subtext to replace any of our current businesses. I see it right now as an addition, as an add-on, as a way to get closer to the brand for our audience, and a way to have better communication, and understand their needs better, and then be able to respond more interestingly in our other platforms to their needs.

To me, it’s a really interesting two way opportunity now. Ultimately, is there a revenue opportunity there? I hope so. And if there is, that’s great.

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