Q&A 

Togetherness: 5 minutes with… Rob Barham

In today’s challenging publishing environment, how can publishers work better together and with their supply chain partners, to ensure a profitable publishing future? We get the views of Rob Barham, group sales director at Air Business.

By Rob Barham

Togetherness: 5 minutes with… Rob Barham

Q: How should publishers best marshal their resources to secure a profitable future?

A: Publishers are best placed to focus their attention on the traditional tasks of creating content, selling content and selling advertising around that content, alongside the creation of e-commerce consumables such as gift and subscription boxes. They are beautifully positioned to understand the interests of their subscribers and market content to them.

Everything else – for example, the sourcing and buying of print, paper or distribution services – should be left to specialists, either internally hired or outsourced.

To help ensure the profitable continuation of print, publishers should review their eligibility for postal discounts, both domestic and international, and review the cost-benefit of reduced pagination.

Q: In what areas is there potential for greater collaboration between publishers?

A: The publishing industry faces immense cost pressures and challenging trends to negotiate. For example, the ever increasing cost of print and distribution on the one hand and falling newsstand sales and advertising revenue on the other. Could publishers collaborate where they have similar content and encourage more newsstand consumers to buy across a genre rather than pitch against each other within a declining genre? Working on sharing best practice again could help the industry as a whole and is something the subscription bureaux, along with the PPA, could help facilitate. What is the best way to on-board a new subscriber converted from the newsstand? How can you encourage lapsed subscribers to ‘stay in touch’ with the brand in some way, maybe on a ‘part-time’ voucher redemption basis? These and other challenges are faced by all publishers.

Q: How are publishers' ecommerce strategies evolving?

A: At varying levels, I would say. At one end of the spectrum, some have all-singing, all-dancing shopping channels, whilst at the other end, some have only the bare essentials necessary to manage the customer journey. But as I touched on before, every publisher has an insight into the interests of their consumers and the key is to leverage that. Again, this is an area where publishers by sharing best practice models, could help make the size of the prize bigger. Amazon sell magazine subscriptions for this very reason … using magazine brands and subscriptions as a lead into other product sales.

Q: When outsourcing services, what can publishers do to help ensure a successful partnership?

A: Where possible, the publisher should invest considerable time in immersing the outsource company in their style, voice, and rules of engagement. These should be regularly audited and refreshed. The subscription bureaus have been doing this for years. In other areas, continuity can be achieved by retaining key established staff and building clear lines of communications and agreed rules of engagement.

Q: What have been the stand-out publishing trends over the last twelve months?

A: Four trends stand out: the continued decline in print-only subscriptions, for all but the leading brands (political & current affairs content being the exception); continued consolidation of titles and publishing portfolios as the market continues to shrink; increased recognition of the importance of sustainability, with publishers examining the viability of alternative wrapping techniques; new postal efficiencies, which are helping mitigate some of the cost pressures on publishers.

Q: Looking ahead to the next decade, how do you expect publishing companies to evolve?

A: For consumer publishing, we’ve already seen considerable decline in print and this will continue, along with more consolidation and realignment to ‘must have’ services, such as data for B2B. As we see Generation Z consumption habits come to the fore, we have to question, and find answers to, how print can play a part in the B2B and Consumer world as we advance into the next decade and realign to and monetise more immediately available forms of mobile content, or face the consequences.

"...an active and loyal supporter of the publishing arena..."

About us

Air Business is a market-leader in global mail, fulfilment, distribution and subscription management for the publishing sector. As strategic partner of the Professional Publishers’ Association (PPA) since 2010, we are committed to being not just a supplier but an active and loyal supporter of the publishing arena.

Web: www.airbusiness.com

Email: hello@airbusiness.com

Tel: 01727 890 600