by Josh Druck
on August 14, 2013

The Art of the Pivot: A Fireside Chat with David Lipson of Philadelphia Magazine

PeopleLinx recently welcomed the President of Metrocorp and Publisher of Philadelphia Magazine, David Lipson, as another speaker in our Fireside Chat series. While he didn’t share any stories of his son Matt, who was an intern with us this summer, David painted a picture of Philly Mag from 1908 onward, and offered insights towards pivoting quickly when your business’s ecosystem is being challenged by upstart competitors.

The magazine traces its roots to the Philadelphia Chamber of  Commerce, and was originally written for businessmen and their families. The stylistic direction of the magazine began to gradually shift after WWII, when magazines like Esquire and the New Yorker were creating articles and covers more focused on matters of lifestyle. Philly Mag embraced this new journalism, and began writing more pieces on the pros and cons of things that affected the Philadelphia region. Fast forward to today, and Philly Mag is both a cultural and informational hub of timely and regionally relevant information.

However, as the internet has come of age, startups have begun to chip away at the source of traditional print’s revenue – advertisements and classifieds — and websites began to aggregate information on topics where magazine employees had traditionally been subject matter experts. Eventually Philly Mag began to explore additional streams of revenue, and additional ways to reach their audience. Staying true to its roots, Philly Mag maintained its focus on bringing regionally and culturally relevant information to their readers, written and edited by experts in their respective fields, across the channels their readers rely on most.

The magazine continues to boast their well-known “Best of Philly” list, has created a number of special-interest publications, and has very impressive statistics on their digital publications and impressions. It was a classic example of how a business can struggle to remain relevant and profitable after disruptive innovations move in to their space, and a classic example of how to use the disruptive innovation to accelerate (as made popular by Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma”).

The lesson to take away from this is that if your company has history of doing one thing and doing it well, rely on that as you seek to pivot how you reach your existing and future audiences. The magazine still had the expertise to create lifestyle-relevant content, the business just needed to make sure that they were making that content available where their readers were reading.

From where I sit, one threat / opportunity to traditional journalism is crowd sourcing. I asked David his thoughts on the matter, and he agreed that it has its pros and cons. If his business needs a local set of eyes or ears, they can tweet out a question and get feedback. For me, this raises the question: if everyone is becoming a source of news, and as news becomes more decentralized, how do you know which sources to trust?

Making this professionally relevant, I realized that if someone is trying to learn more about a particular crowd-source author, they inevitably will end up at a profile of that author. In that context, if you want your crowd sourcing to be taken seriously, you should take your profiles seriously. As a window to your credentials, achievements, and skills, your online profiles are often the first impression that you give to people who find you online. Lucky for me, I’ve had help on my LinkedIn profile from my expert coworkers here at PeopleLinx.

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