Start-up business owners are generally characterized by a desire for control and flexibility rather than growth and wealth. According to MYOB, those seeking fulfillment outnumber the avaricious by nearly two to one. This is typical of small publishing businesses who are driven by passion but experience limited sale potential.
It’s also a reasonable bet that, like their counterparts in other industries, established owners are mainly interested in surviving and protecting their asset values. To ignore or avoid change is to risk decline and failure. Why then do many publishers wrestle with conflicting emotions about converting their businesses to digital?
In the 1980s, corporation efficiency researchers Gleicher, Beckhard and Harris, devised a formula that described what compels businesses finally to change. The formula states that change happens when three factors multiplied end up being more than the resistance against the change: Dissatisfaction x Vision x Action > Resistance to change
But is it organisational resistance or that of the publisher-owner that is delaying change?
The digital race is up and running, print revenues are in decline, yet many publishers are choosing to shuffle their feet until the “right moment”. Is it pragmatism or paralysis? Many business owners assert the former. After all they say, if they were really up against it, they would do whatever they could do to escape ruin.
Not so, say psychologists. Studies have proven that if we feel like we aren’t in control of our destiny, we tend to give up and accept whatever situation we are in. This condition is unflatteringly called Learned Helplessness and is common in industries facing great forces of change.
The digital challenge is enormous. It requires publishers to re-think every aspect of their businesses, against a backdrop of declining digital yields, complex and ever-changing goalposts. It’s as likely that dissatisfaction will be grimly accepted, as that it will be a catalyst for change.
It’s a complex process, but both B2B and B2C publishers are finding workable visions to grow and monetise their digital businesses.
UK technology publisher Future Publishing this week reported that for the first time, growth in online advertising had exceeded the decline in print advertising, and that the digital division had made a profit. This had been driven by paid for digital editions of their magazines. Speaking to The Guardian last Friday, Chief Executive Stevie Spring explained “There has been more change in the last 10 months, since iPads and tablets started to motor, than in the previous 10 years.”
Publishers who invest time to understand how their publishing sector and digital fit together, and who take part in discussions about the opportunities, are better equipped to create a lasting digital vision for their businesses.
The antidote to Learned Helplessness is to gain small wins: when you succeed at easy tasks, hard tasks feel more achievable. So trying to decide whether paywalls work and when iPad magazines will take off is much less important than publishers simply getting on with it. Small successes effect big changes in publishing businesses.
Another approach is to outsource the digital challenge entirely. Many publishers develop a vision for their digital business, but find implementation impossible given their own limited expertise and cost barriers. Most publishers however are canny businesspeople with strong process, business administration and management skills.
Rather than trying to master every new digital manifestation, publishers are increasingly outsourcing to suppliers who wish to profit from the business outcome. This allows many publishers to avoid choosing between unsatisfactory cheap solutions and unattainable quality ones.
Adapt or die?
Charles Darwin stated “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Adaptation to digital need not be revolutionary or risky.
For small publishers who simply want to stay in business and have a nest egg to sell one day, it might be time to work out their own change equation. Making small changes in-house or outsourcing the bigger factors can help publishers overcome their inherent resistance to change.
The ninth edition of PwC’s Private Business Barometer is now available at the touch of a screen as a free interactive edition available on the iPad.
Published twice annually, The PwC Private Business Barometer is a national, independent survey of more than 1000 Australian private businesses with an annual turnover of between AUD$10 and $100 million.
Produced in conjunction with Roy Morgan and Editor Group, the goal was to take the print version and create an interactive publication that was not a simple, flat digital replica of the print report. The result is a much more dynamic presentation of content – a fully interactive and immersive experience that invites engagement with the reader.
The interactive app enables iPad users to see, hear and touch insights from private business owners and management on growth, funding, people, business operations and other key issues impacting private business.
PwC Private Clients Partner Jason Daniels says, “The Barometer iPad app is a first for PwC Australia and has been designed specifically to deliver an innovative experience for users.”
“In developing it we have not adapted a PDF but created a complete digital publication. No registration is required, users are able to download and view completely free.”
“Our objective is to enable private businesses, entrepreneurs and high net wealth individuals to have intelligent, current business insight at their fingertips,” he said.
The app is available free on iTunes now
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