Can pub­lish­ers cheat their way to a more prof­itable fu­ture? Yes!

The Insider - - FRONT PAGE - By Gayle Moss

Of­ten­times when look­ing for so­lu­tions to dif­fi­cult chal­lenges, we seek help from ex­perts with decades of ex­pe­ri­ence and past suc­cesses in their field. So when faced with the dis­rup­tions brought on by the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion, it was only nat­u­ral for the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try to as­sume their in­cum­bent, trusted ex­ec­u­tives would suc­cess­fully lead the way for­ward.

I was no dif­fer­ent. When con­fronted with a dilemma in my life and work, I would typ­i­cally seek coun­sel from those older and wiser than me.

But then I met a young man named Brian Wong – a 25-yearold Cana­dian en­tre­pre­neur who grad­u­ated from univer­sity at 18, made Forbes’ 30 Un­der 30 three times and be­came one of the youngest peo­ple to ever raise ven­ture cap­i­tal fund­ing – US$24M be­fore the age of 25.

Wong launched Kiip in 2010 – a unique mo­bile ad­ver­tis­ing net­work that uses re­wards to re­de­fine how brands en­gage con­sumers. Named as of the world’s 50 Most In­no­va­tive Com­pa­nies by Fast Com­pany, Kiip pow­ers re­wards in 4,000+ iOS and An­droid apps and works with over 700 top brands around the globe.

Brian re­cently pub­lished his first book, The CHEAT Code – a col­lec­tion of 71 bite-sized gems of cheats/ hacks/short­cuts that of­fer very prac­ti­cal ad­vice for many busi­ness and pub­lish­ing ex­ec­u­tives that find them­selves run­ning or­ga­ni­za­tions in a rapidly chang­ing and chal­leng­ing, com­pet­i­tive land­scape.

The book can be read in a day and reads just like he’s chat­ting with you over a beer. It will never win a Pulitzer Prize, but it does con­tain ad­vice that is thought­ful, provoca­tive and makes sense if you’re will­ing to open your mind to new “off script” ideas and strate­gies.

Brian’s cheats re­fute many en­trenched busi­ness prac­tices – prac­tices that no longer work in this dig­i­tally-dom­i­nated world full of those mad­den­ing mil­len­ni­als.

This phe­nom is a breath of fresh air in a world that of­ten stinks of sta­tus quo, con­ven­tional non-wis­dom and cor­po­rate in­san­ity – i.e. do­ing the same things over and over ex­pect­ing a dif­fer­ent out­come.

Here are a few par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing “cheats” to which pub­lish­ers should pay at­ten­tion…

Cheat 1: Know your Su­per­power

Too of­ten we try to get bet­ter at things we’re not very good at in­stead of fo­cus­ing on in­vest­ing where we ex­cel and mak­ing that even bet­ter. To Wong, this is ab­so­lutely the op­po­site of what we should be do­ing. Brian be­lieves that ev­ery­one has a “su­per­power”– a tal­ent or skill that dif­fer­en­ti­ates them – some­thing that they do bet­ter than most other peo­ple.

In pub­lish­ing, that tal­ent is journalism and it cre­ated a US$65B in­dus­try that peaked in 2000. But soon there­after, panic of los­ing print rev­enues kicked in and pub­lish­ers started to kill the hands that had fed them for over 300 years.

In­stead of nur­tur­ing what they were re­ally great at in 2001

– qual­ity con­tent – pub­lish­ers started down the slip­pery slope dec­i­mat­ing their news­rooms.

Sadly, as the qual­ity of news­pa­per con­tent in North Amer­ica took a nose­dive and cir­cu­la­tion plum­meted, ad­ver­tis­ers pre­dictably hiked over to Face­book and Google be­cause that’s where the money was.

Gause’s Law of com­pe­ti­tion ex­clu­sion states that “when two species that oc­cupy a sim­i­lar niche in the same lo­ca­tion can­not co­ex­ist sta­bly for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time, one species will ei­ther be­come ex­tinct or evolve to fill a dif­fer­ent niche.”

When we con­sider news­pa­pers and so­cial me­dia, it’s hard not to think about Ross Daw­son’s pred­i­ca­tions about the ex­tinc­tion of news­pa­pers. But it doesn’t have to be a doom and gloom fi­nale.

Mu­sic was in a sim­i­lar predica­ment not that long ago and is mak­ing a re­ver­sal of its mis­for­tunes. Its re­newed fo­cus on the su­per­power of su­per tal­ented artists and in giv­ing fans what they re­ally want is turn­ing the in­dus­try around.

So al­though the clock is tick­ing, there is still time for pub­lish­ers to rein­vest in what made them great: En­gage with news-hun­gry au­di­ences who want to par­tic­i­pate in the cre­ation of qual­ity con­tent and evolve to fill a prof­itable niche where their core com­pe­tency is their com­pet­i­tive dif­fer­en­tia­tor.

Which brings us to…

Cheat 30: Rein­vent or Die!

We’ve heard this be­fore, but do we know what it means? Brian gives two ex­cel­lent ex­am­ples to show it in ac­tion.

One was when Ap­ple Inc. re­moved the word “Com­puter” from its name in 2007 and Steve Jobs started telling the world that Ap­ple was now a life­style com­pany. It was quite in­ge­nious be­cause it in­te­grated Ap­ple into peo­ple’s day-to-day lives, be­com­ing some­thing they couldn’t live with­out. Sounds a lot like how main­stream me­dia was two decades ago, doesn’t it?

Un­der Ar­mour rein­vented it­self by pur­chas­ing three apps that tracked health, fit­ness and nu­tri­tion. Al­most overnight the ath­letic ap­parel com­pany be­came a dig­i­tal sports busi­ness and grew into the world’s largest net­work of health and fit­ness ap­pli­ca­tions.

As Wong noted, “Those who adapt to change can even­tu­ally make change. Once you reach that level, adap­ta­tion is easy be­cause you’ve not just pre­dicted the fu­ture, you’ve cre­ated it.”

Cheat 42: Know When to Let Go

Know­ing when it’s time to let go of an idea or com­pany is a skill even the largest and most suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies of­ten fail at. Brian uses Ko­dak and its in­ven­tion of the dig­i­tal cam­era back in 1975 as an ex­am­ple.

At the time, Ko­dak made most of its money on film, so it ba­si­cally aban­doned the dig­i­tal cam­era prod­uct and ended up bank­rupt. It at­tempted to make a come­back, but never re­ally suc­ceeded be­cause it left the door open for oth­ers to cap­i­tal­ize on the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion. To­day, Ko­dak isn’t even a player in the photo in­dus­try, rel­e­gated to the com­mer­cial print­ing busi­ness.

Ko­dak was an­other vic­tim of The In­no­va­tors Dilemma with its in­abil­ity to let go of the past. Sound fa­mil­iar?

“Those who adapt to change can even­tu­ally make change. Once you reach that level, adap­ta­tion is easy be­cause you’ve not just pre­dicted the fu­ture, you’ve cre­ated it.”

Cheat 71: Imag­ine, What if?

Brian Wong is wiser than his age would sug­gest and in clos­ing I’d like to share some­thing he said that res­onated with me, “Cu­rios­ity is the root of all am­bi­tion. There is noth­ing more pow­er­ful for ig­nit­ing the hu­man spirit than cu­rios­ity. It melds emo­tion and ra­tio­nal­ity into a tran­scen­dent state of mind that’s full of won­der.”

It has also been my ex­pe­ri­ence that cu­ri­ous minds of­ten spawn “strokes of ge­nius” be­cause in­stead of wait­ing for serendip­ity to hap­pen to them, they of­ten cre­ate it.

I in­vite you to be cu­ri­ous for just a few mo­ments and watch this Spot­light in­ter­view with Brian Wong. And keep an open mind that you, with all your wis­dom and ex­pe­ri­ence, can learn some­thing from some­one half your age.

Then, try to hold on to that cu­rios­ity a lit­tle longer and put your­self in a po­si­tion to gen­er­ate your own serendip­ity by read­ing

The Cheat Code.

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