At the FIPP World Media Congress, taking place on a screen near you throughout September, Condé Nast’s Wolfgang Blau posed the question: Who’s done more for the digital transformation of your company recently? Your chief digital officer, or… covid?
Blau was not trying to disparage CDOs, because he was previously one himself, but simply to acknowledge the astonishing progress a lot of publishers have made since the end of March. It’s almost as if, he said, “we’d jumped four years into the future”.
When survival is at stake, ‘business as usual’ is not an option, and publishing businesses have had to dig deep.
We’ve found increasingly sophisticated online alternatives to our offline activities, such as events, the learnings from which are informing other parts of our businesses and will have a lasting positive impact.
With everyone dispersed to their homes, we’ve embraced mobile journalism and digital storytelling, neither new things, but ones which we’d perhaps been slow to run with previously, making us infinitely more agile and productive as publishing outfits.
The digital literacy of our editorial teams, deprived of the comfort blanket of IT support, has gone through the roof as they have individually grappled with and mastered new technology, as well as the complexities of delivering quality sight and sound. The occasional poorly lit video and inaudible podcast has been the price we've had to pay, but what a learning curve!
With many of our traditional revenue streams severely impacted, we’ve launched new offerings – often stuff that had been considered before, but never got off the drawing board. The extreme financial pressures have brought these to the fore, and many have proved popular.
All this has gone hand-in-hand with a reappraisal of who we are, what we do and why we do it.
We all yearn for a vaccine – though maybe not the Russian one – but in years to come, those many publishers that make it through this will look back on this period as one in which their companies came of digital age.