What the experts say about niche media’s future

I got my fair share of BBQ, roller derby, and food trucks this week in Austin. I was there for the tenth annual Niche Media Conference and a bonus day focused on technology. For those unable to make the trip to the Lone Star State, here are the top five takeaways from the event:

5. Don’t be afraid of using outsiders to work on growth initiatives. In sharing her story about launching innovative ad products, Krystle Kopacz of Atlantic Media urged us not to let small operational details get in the way of conceiving big ideas. You can always use freelancers to execute once you get the green light. Mike Obert of Open Look described how to keep remote contributors accountable using modern technology (e.g., Skype, Basecamp, various messaging apps).

4. Publishers aren’t taking full advantage of repurposing content. Don Peschke, CEO of August Home, showed us how to “Produce Once, Sell 10 Times,” and the folks at ePublishing passed out a list of 43 ways ePublishing clients earn revenue online. See #5 above if you don’t think you have time to do this.

3. Innovation is a team sport. Some niche business founders, CEOs, and Publishers control innovation too tightly, which ends up stunting growth. Dan Oswald, CEO of BLR, underscored the importance of valuing your team and involving them in new concept generation. Dan’s success has come from budgeting for innovation, placing many small bets, and, most importantly, getting out of the way and empowering colleagues to run with their ideas.

2. Data is challenging Content for the throne. While publishers still say Content is King, many are realizing data is a close second, or even “1A.” The buzzword of the technology day was “Unified Database.” Roberta Mueller, the SVP of Product Development from Northstar Travel Media, spoke about how to monetize a unified database. Northstar created custom ads and product offers that targeted individual preferences. They also mined the data to produce market research reports with commercial value. Despite the fact that everyone seems to understand the importance of data, Ryan Dorn of Brain Swell Media says that clients often lack a unified database plan.

1. Have a big ticket item for your most qualified customers. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, shared the goal of his business model: get customers to attend his Content Marketing World event. Registration costs from $1,000-$2,500, and last year he had 3,500 marketers in attendance. As a result of this strategy, he built an eight figure business in about five years. Not too bad. Gavin Gillas, CEO of The Magazine Channel, shared that the top 1% of mobile gamers spend $68.27 per month on average, which more than makes up for the 37% of mobile gamers who only play free versions.

Next year’s conference will be in Charlotte from March 27-29.