|2012 will be the year of audience development. Not for publishers, but for brands.
In today's digital world everyone has an audience, but not everyone has a trusted, unbiased, media brand that audiences rely on high-quality, frequently delivered, relevant content.
As marketers begin realizing that their Facebook fans, Twitter and Tumblr followers, blog subscribers, newsletter recipients and even YouTube subscribers should be treated like an audience instead of just customers, the value of your publication's audience will become less and less valuable. Ask yourself what happens when your largest advertiser realizes they have more Facebook fans than you have subscribers?
Herein lies your 2012 opportunity: Stop selling access to your audience and start selling the quality, integrity and reputation of your brand and the content it creates.
In 2012 you need to start selling your brand equity and expand your brand. How do you do this? Ask your biggest advertiser what kind of content coverage they'd like to see that will drive demand for your product. Come up with an editorially sound approach to creating unbiased, creatively produced content from a trusted and talented content creator in the marketplace and invite your advertisers to underwrite the creation of that content. This is not custom publishing. Think PBS or NPR underwriting in a for-profit world.
Expand your brand by identifying talented content creators outside of your organization and build brand relationships with them. Instead of constantly attempting to bring new content to your already cluttered and broad web platforms, try building niche-focused content platforms driven by authentic talent who have already built an audience.
In 2012, acquire new audiences by working with new talent, underwritten by brand interests in ways that enhance the value of your brand and its relationship with your audience. If you do this, you'll build brand equity that's worth paying for instead of fighting for your piece of the display-advertising pie.