Three Trends in Niche Digital Media

Last week, the 8th Annual Niche Digital Conference was held in Denver. These events are always good for learning about the latest trends and networking with like-minded professionals in the niche media space.

This year, three themes emerged from the event:

  1. Stop hoping traditional digital advertising will turn around and save the day. Publishers need to innovate through alternative business models
  2. While technology enables innovation, getting the strategy right is the correct first step
  3. Don’t be afraid to innovate – just think about how you can alleviate a pain point for your audience

Alternative Models to Generate Digital Revenue: Native Advertising, Memberships, Events

One clear message was relying on traditional online advertising (e.g., banner ads) is destined to fail. Innovators in the space have turned to alternative business models: native advertising, memberships, and online events.

Brad Fayfield, CEO of Storm Mountain Media, kicked off the event by sharing with us the successes they have had with building loyalty and engagement through social media, and relying on native advertising / custom content as a primary driver of digital revenue. He created an internal agency and production division (Storm Studio) that leverages their expertise to create content for leading brands such as Coors and Red Bull.

Yours truly represented The Sterling Woods Group and spoke on the benefits of paid digital memberships. My main points were: find your “whales” (most engaged audience members), listen to them, and create a membership program around their wants and needs. Don’t spend time re-inventing the wheel technology-wise. There are proven solutions (like ours) that save you time and allow you to focus on your customers and core business.

Elizabeth Peterson, VP at BLR Healthcare shared some breakthrough ideas about monetizing content via online boot camps and events. She had some compelling data to help skeptics see customers will pay (sometimes, a lot) for intensive online trainings and seminars.

Strategy Should Trump Technology

Another theme that emerged was the role of technology in innovation. In his presentation, Ed Coburn, Co-President of School Family Media, touched on the following important topics:

  • Publishers should start with a digital strategy – platform decisions should be secondary
  • Technology is just a tool, it won’t solve your innovation challenges by itself
  • Most of the time it’s better to buy a technology solution rather than build it yourself – do you really want to become a software company?

Innovation with Content Should Not Be Scary

Do you know you need to do something new, but think innovation is scary? In his keynote speech, Jay Acunzo, Host and Creator of Unthinkable, made innovation attainable. He quoted Twitter founder Ev Williams, who once said, “Take a human desire… and use modern technology to take out steps.” Jay encouraged us that instead of “modern technology,” we should think about how “content, or courses, or events, or services, or templates…” can be used to simplify a process for an audience.

My hope is attendees return home and take action to drive innovation in their companies. While the enthusiasm levels were high at the event, the important thing is, of course, follow-through and execution.

The folks at Niche Media will host the Niche CEO Summit in Nashville November 14-15.