I still get questions from investors and partners about why Piano publishes Traffic, and when I explain, some say, “Oh, yes, a ‘thought leadership’ publication.” But the irony is that we don’t see this magazine as a way for us at Piano to express how much we know. It’s exactly the opposite: Traffic is the way we try to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. It’s an excuse to do investigative reporting, data analysis, and interviews in the industry that we love.
We believe we’re still in very early days of understanding the dynamics of digital business for media. Most digital publishers I work with still don’t know nearly enough about who their customers are — if they even think about their users as customers at all. We all know that page views aren’t the best metric for tracking success, but there still aren’t other widely accepted metrics.
Many media companies are excellent business-to-business marketers but aren’t used to direct-to-consumer marketing, so they don’t have much of a playbook for engaging people in a dialog to influence their behavior. It’s impossible to build a business, in any industry, if you’re afraid to talk to your customers. But many digital media companies are still getting over the idea that it’s unseemly to ask users to do anything.
Perhaps the biggest chasm we have to cross, though, is how we think about the role digital media plays in people’s lives. If you’re like me, you don’t pick up a magazine on the newsstand with a thought to how many articles are inside. The digital descendants of the families who built the newspaper, broadcast, and magazine empires of the twentieth century seem to have temporarily forgotten what their forefathers knew: that the product was never really articles or shows.
It is, and will always be, media’s potential to connect us to the world around us that provides its power. Media may be about storytelling, but stories only matter once communities form around them. Connecting people with local merchants, with global brands, and with each other has always been our industry’s lifeblood. We need to do a better job building those connections on the web.
The more we find out, of course, the more we realize how much there is for us to learn. That’s what makes this process of sharing data and knowledge about our industry so valuable — and so much fun. It’s what drives us to celebrate the entrepreneurs, in big companies and small, who are doing the hard work of driving the business forward. And, yes, it’s what makes us publish Traffic — so we have the context to engage you, and thousands of other media professionals, in a dialog about the industry’s future.
Welcome to Traffic’s second issue. We hope you have as much fun reading it as we did making it — and we hope you’ll let us know what you think, at firstname.lastname@example.org.