Turning Up Your Indie Brand Power

new-york-magazine-grumpy-catWith tech barriers to publishing ridiculously low, success depends on the power of your brand.

“It’s very easy to build an app,” said AOL CEO Tim Armstrong at last week’s American Magazine Media Conference. “It’s incredibly hard to build a brand.”

Armstrong said that strong brands are so important now “that many Facebook or Google employees are leaving Silicon Valley to work for publishers and develop mobile and video,” writes Sara Guaglione in Publishers Daily.

Also speaking to the audience at AMMC was Declan Moore, CEO of National Geographic Partners who discussed how important it is to leverage strategic alliances.

“Moore suggested drawing on the ‘power of brands as taste makers,’” Guaglione notes. “People trust brands for quality content, curated by leaders and experts in the industry. He said influencers on social media are key people for big, established brands to partner with, as they reach out to a community interested in the brand’s content.”

For indie publishers, the challenge to find and develop those partners can be daunting: “Growth can be slower compared to that of bigger publishing groups. But digital can solve some of those problems,” Guaglione continues.

She cites Larry Burstein of New York Magazine, a title that has embraced digital as a way to expand its reach beyond a tri-state base.

“Now those interested in the ‘urban experience’ that New York covers can access the content online, allowing the publication to reach a whole new global audience,” she notes.

There is incredible power in a strong brand and indie publishers need to clearly understand their audience to tap into it. For some, that means moving to alternative monetization strategies, per Michele O’Connor Abrams of Dwell who predicted that all advertising will move to native at her brand. She’s not alone in her thinking…some are calling 2016 the year native either makes it, or dies trying.

“We can’t wait to get out of the banner business,” O’Connor Abrams said, calling it “disruptive.”

(It’s a great indication when brands start talking in clear terms about their audience and the importance of that relationship – although we still caution that native advertising has its pitfalls if your audience feels deceived by it.)

Digital disruption and intrusion is a thing of the past, and indie publishers are recognizing that  real power of digital lies in extending their reach and strengthening their brand – not pushing ads.