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Publishers, once the go-to source for news, information, and editorials, have been forced to reinvent the space due to total digital domination.  The decreased demand for print copy has posed a challenge to publishers.  In February 2009, PEW Research Center Publications reported that the print losses were considerable and the digital era was making a significant impact in the minds of consumers.

A reactive shift in strategy has helped publishing houses adapt, incorporating digital distribution methods and allowing advertisers to reach greater audiences through multiple platforms. Smart implementation of new strategies has helped recover a portion of the business initially lost to the internet.  Few magazines of these could survive the loss of ad revenue if they were to eliminate print in favor of a web-only publishing model. What works for these publishers is moving timely and directed content to web media, and utilizing print to preserve income from advertisers. In this model, subscribers also have increased access to content that is updated more quickly, an increase in quality of service – a benefit to the publication’s brand.

The change is paying off. For magazines and newspapers, the rate-card-reported advertising revenue for the first six months of 2011 represented a 4% increase versus the same period in 2010. In fact, the sector has posted increases in ad revenue and pages for 5 consecutive quarters. We’re seeing a resurgence, and we’re seeing it across all markets — trade, academic, professional,” said Tina Jordan, Vice President of the Association of American Publishers in the New York Times on August 11. “In each category we’re seeing growth. The printed word is alive and well whether it takes a paper or digital delivery.”

Despite the industry’s heavy favor for digital distribution, publishing isn’t yet a sinking ship. Smart adaptation has helped plug holes in the hull, but there may still be uncertainty as to how long the dollars will continue to come in for print. Although it’s difficult to predict where publishing will be in 10 years, it’s safe to say that it will be shaped by changes in consumer behavior and digital innovation.

Give a Little, Make a Lot

In a time where inhibited growth and revenue decline are the norm, it is hard to envision a segment that manages to derive value from a trying economic climate. Social entrepreneurship – involving ventures which place emphasis on addressing a social issue over turning a profit – has actually been viewed as increasingly favorable during the recession. In stark contrast to the negativity, there is inherent value for a brand that remains focused on doing good on a local, regional, or global scale. Businesses dealing with helping the impoverished, improving a community, or preventing social delinquency are all models, along with others, that constitute the industry. Ecopreneurship also falls under this category.

Social entrepreneurs are somewhat of a misunderstood group. In order to make an impact, social enterprises require equal if not greater effort than for-profit businesses and are costly to initiate. At a minimum, social enterprises struggle to maintain a universal goal of sustainability. Some may be initially or later become profitable, but how a social business chooses to reinvest its profits varies substantially from conventional businesses.

TOMS, a footwear retailer, embodies the principles of a successful social enterprise. Blake Mycoskie, the founder, created the business, which matches every pair of shoes with a pair donated to a child in need, as a means of addressing an issue which he personally witnessed while traveling in Argentina. With a boom in popularity from media exposure over the positive change the company was enacting, the company has now sold and donated more than 1 million pairs. TOMS is profitable, but utilizes its proceeds to support its mission.

Sarvajal, a franchised business which leverages water filtration technologies to bring clean drinking water to rural areas, is an example of another type of social enterprise: a highly profit-driven company which maintains an aspiration of social change. The model offers franchisees the potential to profit hundreds of thousands of dollars annually while dramatically improving the lives of the people they serve.

There is money to be made, but profitability doesn’t influence the decisions of these businesses on the same order of magnitude as their responsibility towards their mission.  Sometimes, as in the case of Kiva, a vastly successful micro-lending website hailed by many as the ‘poster child’ for modern social enterprise, they come under great scrutiny due to common conceptions of business ethics derived from the behaviors of for-profit companies.

Building a successful business in a poor economy is a daunting endeavor. Then again, so is changing the world. With strong support to help tackle both, social entrepreneurship remains a durable and meaningful industry.

Junction CEO Shares Insights into Strategy, Impact on Blog Talk Radio

Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction Creative Solutions (Junction), appeared earlier this afternoon on The Compassionate Capitalist on Blog Talk Radio, broadcasted on the web to listeners across the country.

Julie and host Karen Rands discussed the values, philosophies, and methodologies that make Junction a leader amongst the large number of firms touting ‘consulting services.’ During the interview, Julie explained Junction’s unique value to its clients, which range from entrepreneurs and startup business to Fortune 500 companies. The pair discussed what constitutes impactful strategy and how Junction is able to effectively map out and execute on the strategies it designs to drive value and achieve results.

Rands, who herself works to bring entrepreneurs together with members of the capital community in order to gain access to capital, touted the power of expert strategic partnerships such as that which Junction offers its clients. Julie spoke to the fact that companies, large and small, often undervalue the value that the right partner can drive. She pointed out that, as Junction often tells its clients, “[business owners] don’t know what you don’t know,” and can benefit greatly from a relationship with a strategic partner.

The full interview is available for listening at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/karen-rands/2011/09/23/compassionate-capitalist-gets-creative

Get In the Fast Lane

The 21st century has brought the world to the fingertips of consumers. Blazing internet speeds, ultra-capable and portable computers and devices, and an increasingly demanding population has ushered in an era of amenities unlike any the developed world has ever experienced. Today’s end users live in a culture of convenience, and they insist upon products and services that cater to their fast-paced lives.

Redbox, a subsidiary of Coinstar, exemplifies the importance of considering the wants of the end user. As foreseen by McDonald’s venture division, which initially funded the company, Redbox’s hyper-convenient kiosk model, placed thoughtfully within grocery stores and pharmacies as part of the consumer’s normal routine, took merely 4 years to surpass industry leader Blockbuster in number of locations. Along with other alternatives like Netflix, with mailing and instant streaming designed to eliminate the hassles of the the video rental process, Redbox has now forced traditional video rental retailers like Blockbuster into obsolescence and even bankruptcy.

Likewise, Domino’s and Pizza Hut have elevated the humble pizza-delivery industry, bolstering their already powerful businesses by incorporating online ordering via computer, mobile device, or even text messaging, and allowing customers to follow up with the status of their order with tools like Domino’s pizza tracker. Pizza delivery has always been a convenience-based service, but now more than ever, simplifying and expediting the process is crucial. Millions of dollars are spent annually by these companies in efforts to better cater to their customers.

Convenience-oriented design in a product or service is an absolutely essential ingredient for building a successful enterprise. Consumers are simply more interested in a product that suits their lifestyle, and are willing to invest more in that brand. Most importantly, ease of use and speediness of service builds strong brand affinity. Design your business anticipating the needs of the end user, and distinguish your brand from competitors to achieve wins. Isn’t that convenient?

Innovative Ways to Avoid the Queue

Market research has always been a useful tool for companies across industry, providing insights into user needs and wants. For decades, the standard procedure for conducting and reacting to research has been to gather data, analyze, and strategize changes to adapt to what has been learned. Despite the ubiquity of this process, the greatest successes have come outside the traditional method, from visionary leadership that chooses to innovate in order to influence users, rather than being influenced by them.

True innovation is the driving force of changes in consumer desires.  The banking industry in the 1990s was a prime example; the internet was a new dynamic in the business of banking. Market research at the time suggested that bank customers found the web irrelevant to their personal finance. Obviously for most banks, the smart play was to ignore web integration.  Leading banks of the era like Citicorp and J.P. Morgan & Co saw the situation differently; noticing potential to revolutionize banking with new capabilities that the internet offered. Internet banking boomed from 2000-2004 and a decade later, online services are the preferred banking method of the majority of bank customers; Bank of America and Chase even offer mobile banking through smartphone platforms.

Bank customers also proudly show their loyalties and advocate for their bank’s brand on social media websites. Other trends in the social media space, arguably the most influential emergent industry in the modern era, mirror the banking industry’s display of a need for progressive thinking. Aside from the negative stigma collected through years of issues like cyberbullying and hacking, myspace.com, once on the forefront of social media, was ultimately crippled by its inability to innovate. By contrast, Facebook’s rise to becoming undisputed standard-bearer for social media has been marked by its consistency in offering new services and integrations. As time passed, Facebook’s offerings became the new benchmark for the expectations of social media users.

In order to maintain a competitive edge, it’s best not to react to the latest market research once it’s published. Try to stay ahead of the market. Innovate. Why wait in line for the teller when you can make a deposit using your iPhone?

Don’t Be Content with Bad Content

In the digital age, where competition for consumer’s attention is high, reinforcing existing brand value and establishing loyalties is vital to the success of any brand. The creation and distribution of highly customized content, such as blogs, videos, and advertisements, serve as a blend of journalism and marketing designed to engage consumers at every brand touchpoint.

Well-targeted content is an incredibly powerful catalyst for driving traffic. Users seeking extended interaction can bolster a brand’s position in the space, but with www.blogpulse.com identifying more than 170,000,000 blogs in existence and YouTube hosting billions of hours of video, content must be both attention-grabbing and carefully tailored in order to break through and truly captivate an audience.

Comcast’s Xfinity page offers the company’s 14 million plus subscribers with a large selection of original news, sports, and entertainment videos that are heavily branded within their own embedded media player. The content is juxtaposed with the users’ email access, keeping them on that page. This is the modern evolution of the approach taken by AOL when it dominated the ISP market, combining the primary services of the application (email, chat, and web browsing) with a portal for extended engagement using news headlines, games, and other multimedia.

Companies like Nike, Burger King, and Yahoo! all have leveraged branded custom websites for targeted ad campaigns, drawing existing customers into deeper relationships with their respective brands. ESPN, already a powerful media originator, recently launched its supplementary Grantland website, where users can find extended reading, broadening their interactions with the sports news giant.

Even small and startup businesses can benefit from creating or sourcing custom content. A few important tips to follow:

Be original. There is little motivation for a reader to choose a blog over a major media outlet if the story is the same.

Deliver value. Be diligent to include relevant statistics, infographics, and visual enhancements to tell users something relevant and new.

Focus on the target audience. The research and the voice in which the content is presented should fit the philosophy and interests of the users.

Invite discussion. The internet is the ultimate social platform. Include users in the conversation to give them a voice, encouraging advocacy for the brand.

Whether you decide to manage content generation or hire an external firm, focus on providing meaningful and engaging content to grow brand affinity and attract new audiences. It is time well spent.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Entrepreneurs are in the business of taking risks, whether investing in a start-up or reinvesting in an existing business.  Without a silver bullet for success, mitigating the day-to-day can present unforeseen challenges.  The job description of CEO can quickly become “jack-of-all-trades” and “expert-of-none.”

There is inherent and undeniable value in finding a good advisor(s) who can provide not only strategic direction but tactical assistance in moving the business forward.  An external strategic firm with in-depth industry knowledge and a diligent focus can be an indispensible ally for an entrepreneur, SMB, or large firm.  It can prevent failures in strategy or uncover important insights to ensure success.

Management consultants can provide information, resolution, implementation, and overall organizational effectiveness to move a business forward.  In order for the relationship to be successful, entrepreneurs must remember to:

Trust – Finding the right relationship with an advisor is critical.  Without trust, the relationship could prove to be detrimental and result in less than effective results.

Engage – Collaborating with an advisor is a key ingredient to the success.  Entrepreneurs must continue to engage and actively get involved with conversations regarding the business.

Execute – Listening and learning are important. Success, however, lies in the execution.

Understanding the value of consultation with a strategic firm can be a crucial step towards building or furthering a successful business. The proper course of action for bridging strategy and execution differs greatly for every business, and can be a difficult path to discover. Rather than play a guessing game, business owners should free themselves from the extreme demands of the “jack-of-all-trades” cliché, focus on driving the business forward as the CEO, and let the consultant handle the items that they don’t know.

Atlanta Shows Strong Support for Local Startups and Growing Businesses

With news that hiring had slowed, preventing unemployment levels from dropping as predicted, 2011 began with an inauspicious economic outlook. Georgia in particular entered the year seeking to end a three year slide of job losses. While the times have been hard on business across the board, startup and budding small businesses in the heart of Metropolitan Atlanta have continued to emerge, undeterred by the grim conditions.

Largely against what might be expected with the overall economic climate, Junction Creative Solutions (Junction), an Atlanta-based strategy firm, and its local clients have managed to show that entrepreneurship is alive and well. Driven by innovation and carefully executed strategies to overcome the volatility of the small business environment, both Junction and a number of its Atlanta-based clients are achieving unprecedented growth in the first half of 2011.

AcuteCare Telemedicine, an emerging Atlanta-based teleneurology services provider, has seen business grow 60% since 2010. The company has successfully contracted with both urban and suburban hospitals in the Atlanta area to provide expert neurology services through remote presence technologies. AcuteCare’s model drives down costs for medical facilities while effectively increasing quality of care, potentially saving lives in the process.

The 4 partners remain optimistic in the continued growth of their business in Georgia and throughout the Southeast as the company gains visibility in the industry. “Atlanta has long been a successful incubator for entrepreneurs,” says Matthews Gwynn, M.D., CEO, AcuteCare Telemedicine. COO, Keith Sanders, M.D. adds, “Even in these difficult financial times, the reasonable regulatory environment will help this city continue to lead the way as the economy improves.”

Competitive Sports Analysis, LLC (CSA), headed by serial entrepreneur Diane Bloodworth, launched a new interactive website integrated with its pioneering scoutPRO™ technology, designed to help fantasy football players gain a competitive edge. CSA has fostered growth throughout the first and second quarters by embracing a well planned business and marketing strategy.

Bloodworth is fond of the entrepreneurial environment in Atlanta, having moved from Washington, D.C. 6 years ago. “I am always impressed with the support of Atlanta’s community. We have received excellent guidance through initiatives like the StartupChicks Accelerator Program and the ATDC Angel Readiness Program.” Added Bloodworth, “With the resources available here to businesses such as ours, it has been very rewarding to see our ideas successfully implemented.”

Julie Gareleck, Managing Partner, Junction, says “We are fortunate to have clients who reinforce the core principles of our own business: authenticity, integrity, value, and most importantly, true entrepreneurship.” Junction has exemplified a strong belief in the power of the right planning for business. “Our firm is dedicated to delivering strategies that hold strong value for our clients, and we work diligently to practice what we preach.”

Gareleck’s firm and its clients take a measure of inspiration from each other to drive business, drawing insight from the attitudes and approaches displayed by one another. In its own strategy and execution, Junction is positioned well to creatively react to the constant changes surrounding the business environment.

Theory M, a software development and consulting firm that leverages new technologies to help clients implement multimedia strategies across multiple platforms, has valued Junction’s philosophies to capitalize on hidden opportunities available to them in Atlanta. “Like Junction, we recognize that we need to be flexible. Luckily, Atlanta is a growth area for new technology and is attracting the type of talented professionals that are interested in the challenge,” says Michael Mayer, Managing Partner, Theory M.

Coming from completely varied industries, businesses such as AcuteCare Telemedicine, Competitive Sports Analysis, and Theory M are showing that Atlanta is ripe with entrepreneurs and small businesses that are prospering with the right approach. “Despite the outlook, it is a promising time for an opportunistic business that knows how to acclimatize itself,” says Gareleck. “Atlanta is experiencing a boom of businesses that have come to this realization, and we’re so excited to be part of it.”

Junction Discusses Authenticity, Value on The Business Hour

Julie Gareleck, Managing Partner, Junction Creative Solutions, recently joined host Ron Comacho as the featured guest on The Business Hour, broadcasted live across the web on www.americaswebradio.com.

The hour-long interview focused on topics related to Junction’s unique positioning as a valuable hybrid agency in the broad marketplace of firms offering “consulting services.” Gareleck described how every business has unique strengths and inherent weaknesses, but regardless of industry, well-researched and effectively planned strategy is a universal necessity for success. She illustrated how several of Junction’s clients, ranging in size from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, have leveraged sound strategy to thrive in a highly competitive, quickly evolving business environment.

Comacho’s questions drilled down to the details of how Junction, as a growing firm, can generate great impact and supply measurable return on investment by providing custom-tailored solutions. The conversation included an examination of how Junction capitalizes on its own core values of authenticity and integrity in this process. Founded on the same spirit of entrepreneurship that drives its clients, the company has been fortunate to have fostered a reputation for delivering real value in its services as it has grown from a one-woman operation to a team of 12.

The entire conversation is available for listening in The Business Hour’s Archive, at http://www.radiosandysprings.com/podcasts/BusinessHourJuly29.2011.mp3

Does Your Brand Have Staying Power?

It was hard to miss the 4-page spread in The New York Times celebrating IBM’s 100th anniversary.  Ranked by Forbes as the 31st largest company in the world, IBM proves its staying power despite the loss of its founder, Thomas J. Watson, Sr. The company operates on  the principle that a business’ long term success hinges not on its current products or offerings, but its institutions of culture and values.  Watson and his successors encouraged embracing innovation in order to understand why the organization does what it does rather than simply how it does it.

For IBM, inventing the UPC bar code and developing a computer that understands language well enough to win Jeopardy! were processes motivated by the company’s drive to constantly innovate to improve how technology serves the world.  Watson’s legacy continues.

As of May 2011, with 35 years in business, Apple Inc. has become one of the largest and the most valuable technologies companies in the world surpassing Microsoft.   A long-time competitor to IBM, Apple differentiated its brand, greatly influenced by its founder, Steve Jobs.  The company believes in fostering individuality and excellence in order to be best in breed.

Powerhouse players like Apple will have to face the same inevitable challenge. When a figure such as Steve Jobs comes to the end of his career as its unequivocal head, will Apple preserve the momentum and maintain its lead in the industry?

As valuable a concept as this is for a large scale international corporation, so too is it for the entrepreneur or small business owner.  Understanding how a business delivers on its purpose is a key to finding success that goes beyond a clever idea or a sensational product.   Businesses must be able to react and adapt to changing climates, leaders, and innovations in the marketplace.

Although most companies will never attain the heights of IBM or Apple Inc., it’s important to identify the values needed to create the ultimate staying power in an ever-evolving business world.