Pivot to digital: how two legacy publishers are embracing their futures

One needs no further evidence than the horrific connotations associated among media circles with terms like “pivot” and “restructuring” to know that legacy media’s transition to digital publishing has been anything but graceful.

But with careful planning, strategic agility, and an influx of new talent, two formerly print-centric publishers are out to prove that old dogs can indeed be taught new tricks.

ALM Media, which houses about three-dozen brands serving various legal and financial sectors, recognized that, while several of its titles were market leaders within their own niche, the company’s digital operation was missing opportunities to better facilitate cross-brand awareness among readers.

“It was not easy to create a content path for a reader who might be, say, an energy industry M&A attorney in California,” president of media Jay Kirsch says. “If Texas Lawyer is covering the energy industry, and the New York Law Journal is covering capital markets and M&A, we had difficulty pulling together content from those different brands for a particular professional.”

The solution meant taking the painful but necessary step of migrating much of the company’s digital operation to a unified CMS, a process that culminated in the October launch of the new Law.com, a hub from which users can access content from across much of ALM’s portfolio of brands. But it wasn’t enough to simply start pushing content out onto the new site; the transition necessitated a new way of thinking about digital development.

“Product development people and computer engineers really want to be in the business of problem solving. That’s what they do best,” says Kirsch. “If you put them in that position where they can just solve a user’s problem, you get much better work from them. Before, they just kind of took orders, and didn’t really have the authority to push back. Now they have a responsibility to not just say yes to everything.”

This benefits the organization as a whole, Kirsch says, because it prevents departments like sales and editorial—whose goals may sometimes run at odds with one another—from dictating competing initiatives from the product team.

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