Week 132: A Core Digital Pattern

A future of publishing workshop triggers some reflections on a key pattern in digital.

It’s early Monday morning and I’m on a plane to London to attend the Digital Media Europe conference and take part in a panel about digital publishing business models.
I’ve reached a new level in preparation for a panel, since we spent the whole of last week preparing for this very topic for a workshop last Thursday and Friday with one of the largest newspapers in Moscow.

A core digital pattern

It’s been fascinating for me to observe that in our discussions around the future of publishing, we always come back to the same principle: There is no big idea at hand that will replace old revenue sources. The only way forward is to invest in a lot of small ideas that will add five to ten percent to revenue. Among these small ideas might be one that has the potential to become a big revenue source one day. But right now, there’s no way to predict which one it will be.

The interesting thing is that this is a core pattern of anything digital. It’s already well known in the seeding and venture capital world, where you invest in ten startups with the hope that one will be successful. That’s why you can see incubators emerging left and right. They produce and nourish even the smaller ideas.

It’s also becoming a new approach for marketing communications that move away from the single big campaign. In a context as fragmented as the digital world, it’s careless to believe that one can predict which ideas will work.

I think we will see more agencies and marketers taking on the incubator concept from the invesment scene and applying them to their ideation and implementation processes. A client will green-light ten ideas and whichever one gets traction will get more budget to make it bigger.

This is a tough change for the advertising industry that is basically built on the concept of the big idea. But as long as they cling to it, we will see ideas that seem to work well in award videos but tank when it comes to effectiveness and consumer receptiveness.

And it won’t just be investment and marketing. Watch this pattern manifest in the near future in more and more industries and contexts that are gradually becoming more digital.

I’m in London for the whole week. If you’re around and want to meet up, let me know.

Author: Johannes

Johannes is a strategist and consultant for digital communications. His work is informed by his experience of working with brands like Deutsche Telekom, MTV, Postbank, Maggi and Nike and by his insatiable appetite for finding the bigger patterns behind current developments in technology and science. Holding a diploma in Media System Design, Johannes is a regular speaker at web and marketing conferences like Republica and the Social Media Summit.