You really should think like a publisher on the Internet

Your web site is a publication. Every business web site is a publication – even the giant catalogues that are Google or Amazon are publications. Several years ago I did some consultancy work with a giant international chemical company. We analysed what kind of business they were in and guess what, they did almost as much publishing as they did chemical production…!

They published catalogues, price lists, leaflets, brochures, in house magazines, customer magazines, email newsletters, web sites and a whole host of printed and online documentation of all kinds. Looked at in total, their biggest “cost” in the business was publishing. Indeed, around a third of all staff time was spent on publishing activities. Yet they thought they were a chemical company.

This analysis dramatically changed the way they considered their business. They even brought in director-level experts in publishing, since it was such an important activity. In fact, in most businesses, publishing is the second most frequent function performed, after the actual main operation itself. If, for instance, you sell cars, publishing will be your second activity. So too, if you are a financial adviser, publishing is your lifeblood.

Yet, few businesses ever really consider publishing to be mainstream. They think it is only to do with customer magazines and so they outsource that to “contract publishers”. Your business, though, is an active publisher, especially if you have a web site. That means, thinking like a publisher. So how do publishers think?

Well, publishers always start their thinking with the reader, their audience. They focus relentlessly on the reader and do everything in their power to only produce material that will interest the readers. They also spend a great deal of time with their readers – at reader events, in focus groups, in meetings, at exhibitions. They get plenty of reader feedback and always use competitions and other promotion devices to get even more information from readers. Publishers are fixated on readers and what they want.

Since your web site is a publication, how fixated on readers are you? How much effort does your business put into reader analysis and awareness? How often do you meet up with your readers? If none of this is on your horizon, you are not thinking like a publisher. And if you don’t think like a publisher your web site won’t be as good as it could be.

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