On this week’s episode of Media Voices, the team brave Snowmageddon to interview Digiday editor-in-chief Brian Morrissey, about publishing economics and sustainability, how B2B is cool, and the value of being really honest about change.

In the news roundup the Media Voices team discuss the very sad closure of The Pool, the problems with one-size-fits-all verification tools, and how Hearst has transformed itself into a revenue behemoth.

See the full transcript here.

In our own words: Peter Houston

This week’s guest made my job really easy. If there’s one thing Brian Morrissey knows it’s the media and I only had to raise a topic for him to be off and running, eagerly sharing his expert take on where our industry is heading.

As I noted in a tweet, the three biggest things to come out of my chat with Brian were:

  • B2C is harder than B2B
  • It’s easy to say you’re not about scale when you’re constricted by scale
  • Advertising is a good business

Brian’s point about B2B was that the business model is fairly straightforward. You need to place yourself at the centre of a community and provide resources that people value in helping them do a better job. The secret to success is in execution and Brian talked about his disdain for traditional Trade Publishing cheer leading and effective business-to-business journalism that tells the truth about industry change.

He contrasted B2B business models with the challenge of B2C where change is all encompassing, and pitches established consumer publishers of digital pureplays of every shape and colour imaginable. “The dislocation that’s happening to companies like BuzzFeed and Vice, it’s completely and utterly different than the sort of challenges that a company like Digiday media is facing.”

At the heart of that is the scale issue that B2B prophets have dismissed as a Unicorn no longer worth chasing. Brian agrees that going after scale for scale’s sake is a mistake, but says it’s too easy to dismiss scale when you operate in a niche market where scale simply isn’t an option.

The solution for some B2C publishers might lie in developing networks of niche publications and Brian reference streetwear site HighSnobiety as an example. Others will needs to keep trimming… “I think that there’s a lot of publications that are going to end up having to really get their cost base under control.”

On the revenue side, Brian sees challenges for mainstream B2C publishers trying to pivot to paid content but advises that no one should abandoning advertising. “Everyone criticizes advertising now, but the truth is it’s high-margin and can be a very lucrative business.  Advertising is a good business.”

Having spent almost many years covering media and marketing Brian offers a balanced perspective on our industry. He’s got one eye on the thrill of the new and the other fixed firmly on the bottom line.


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