PPA 2011: 'Fail, but fail fast' industry told
'If you fail, fail fast' is the mantra business media publications need to embrace if they are to win out in the current environment, according to panel members at today's PPA conference.
The Publican: sold by UBM earlier this year
Leading executives from Bloomberg and United Business Media argued that their "fail fast" mentality allows them room to "experiment", "gives employees freedom to express" themselves and has nullified the blame game previously evident in business publications.
The panel, chaired by Jerry Gosney, director of the PPA's business media group, discussed a number of issues including the death of B2B magazines, the coverage of major news events, applications, and the pitfalls of leadership.
The panel comprised Adrian Barrick, chief executive of UBM built environment and UBM Connect; Frederick Filloux, editor The Monday Note; Kevin Krim, global head of Bloomberg digital; and Professor Jim Scholes, principal, leadership and strategic change.
Barrick said that UBM has acquired its "fail fast" ethos from Silicon Valley, and pointed to examples of how UBM had been "brutal" in exiting sectors which "it didn't think it had a future".
UBM closed more than 30 titles in 2009, and further titles 2010, in response to the economic downturn and the structural decline in print advertising.
Along with axing key printed titles, Barrick also gave the example of how it closed its online aggregator product Building Sustainable Design after just one year, simply because UBM didn't spend enough time researching the project.
Krim agreed with the virtue of the "fail fast" mantra, but cautioned that innovations and new products needed a sufficient "runway" before they were axed.
Krim offered the audience the example of a real estate product which Bloomberg launched, which failed to gain traction after three years and was subsequently closed.
Members of the panel believed that trialing innovations was key to the lifeblood of media organisations, even if they didn't sometimes work.
Filloux sounded a note of caution regarding internet advertising, arguing that such was the saturation of internet news pages that user engagement with ads was minimal.
He said: "We are adding thousands of new pages every day. Publications like Le Figaro are adding hundreds of URLs every day. But the click-through rate on these ads is low."
Scholes, meanwhile, claimed that if "tensions" did not exist in media organisations, it meant your business was dead.
He said it was down to senior executives to take risks, but the problem was that too much of a chief executive's time was taken up with firefighting.
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk
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