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“You cannot build a media company and not be profitable”: Publishing insights from the Morning Brew

“The only way to succeed in media is through niches”

Attended by more than 400 delegates from 43 countries, the FIPP World Media Congress in the Portuguese town of Cascais kicked off with a look at the innovation that’s happening in the face of severe disruption.

Congress 2023 brought together people from a cross-section of media and technology sectors, who explored key industry topics with the foremost global experts.

Jacob Donnelly, Publisher of the Morning Brew, discussed the concept of “nimble power”, and how creators drive industry conversations. 

Here are a few key insights from the session:

1. “The only way to succeed in media is through niches”

Unless you’re the New York Times, you are not going to succeed going forward if you don’t have a very clearly defined understanding of who your audience is. 

Niche media is, is picking a lane and knowing exactly who is the consumer of that content. The key to any of these products is they have to know who actually wants it, right? We had Recurrent Ventures up here before. Every one of their publications, they’re all niche, and they all have a very specific “who” that wants that content. And as long as you understand who that “who” is, you have a great business. 

My belief is that going forward, the only way to succeed in media is through niches. And the only way to have a niche is to know “who”.

2. “You cannot build a media company and not be profitable”

If we look at BuzzFeed, Vice, you know, a lot of these large general interest publications, their dream was to get as big as humanly possible, right? Buzzfeed raised hundreds of millions of dollars… Vice about to go bankrupt, thought they were worth $5.8 billion. They weren’t. 

The issue was they focused so much on top-line growth, growing their revenue without any sort of conversation about everything in the middle. If you look at the P&L, they focused only at the top. They never cared about cost. They never cared about anything. And so at the bottom, they’re losing money every single year. You cannot build a media company and not be profitable. Maybe one year you can, because you’re investing. Maybe two years, because you’re investing. 

But if you are not immediately trying to figure out how to generate revenue for your business, if you’re not immediately figuring out how to get to sustainability, you’re gonna be on a hamster wheel of investing, of raising money.

If you’re on a hamster wheel of raising money, you’re going to fail. Because you lose sight of what matters. Your customer no longer is your reader, your customer is your investor. And we go back to who matters. The “who” really matters. To have a successful business, you need to serve the customer, and that is your reader.

3. “Advertisers follow readers”

Every single person at the company needs to know who the customer is. And the customer is the person consuming the content, right? Advertisers follow reader. 

So if you have the right readers or the right viewers or anything, if you really truly know, if your audience team knows, your editorial team knows, your sales team knows. 

If everyone knows who is the consumer of that content, then all your strategies focus on that. You go after advertisers that care about that. You focus your audience development on that. You focus your editorial strategy on that. If you know who is reading your stuff and you are building for them, your business will be fine.

You can watch the entire session here: