Thursday, May 04, 2006

What does teen magazine Elle Girl have to do with Employee Communications in 2006?

More than you might think (assuming most readers of this Blog are beyond their teen years and not pilfering their daughter’s copy).

While all daily news organizations have moved fully onto the web while continuing to print, many monthly feature magazine had not enbraced the web until quite recently (The New Yorker didn’t have a website until 2001, and Vanity Fair until 2004, according to
Business Week). Even today, Business Week noted, most Time, Inc. magazine websites (Time, People, etc.) have little more than text and pictures (no video, no sound, no interactive games).

And the connection to employee communications? Well, remember the old days of four color employee publications full of well photographed, meticulously edited 3000 word feature stories? OK, it’s been a while. But you know what I’m referring to.

Well, you also know these print publications were replace by content on early Intranets and now on today’s employee portals (Watson Wyatt’s Employee Communications ROI study shows that the use of print media is down 30% and the use of electronic media up 75% in the past two years). And anyone that's ever written for the electrnoic medium knows the content (mainly on intranets) is most often of the time-sensitive news type.

Here’s where the world of teen magazines and employee communications have something in common: The desire of both publishers (that latter being employee communicators) to keep readers’ attention without fighting it out on the sole issue of raw speed (at some point in the not-to-distant future the speed of employee news will be maxed out at real-time – it's already happened for external news).

Condé Nast’s has a fancy name for their experiment with Elle Teen - “user-generated content.” Maybe that's another way of saying, “subscriber blogging.” The plan is for Condé Nast to “let its teen readers create content to a degree previously unseen.”

Could employee communicators take a lead from this by turning over content creation to the employee population? You bet. If you look at what IBM, Intel, Cisco and other high tech companies have done with their massive internal blog network, it sounds quite similar.

And it's already happening in certain circles (hint: my previous post on social media such as and

One explanation for the “user-generated content” approach is the simple fact that users are more engaged when they participate in the creation of the content to which they’re reading.

Of course, the stakes are quite different for Condé Nast. Commercial publishers need eyeballs to drive ad revenues (and they are keenly aware that Google’s revenue, which is almost all ad generated, was up 79% last quarter). Employee communicators measure success far differently. But they, too, know that their readers have shifted dramatically from paper to online and may be less engaged as employees than before.

BTW - retired GE CEO Jack Welch recently wrote that the #1 measure of a companies success is employee engagement! He said, "If you're running a business, though, whether it's a corner store or a multi-product multinational, we would say there are three key indicators that really work: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow."

In the end, the common thread for all publishers is attracting and keeping their reader/users base – and their interest in logging on and getting users engaged. The difference going forward may very well be the definition of a publisher - from a content creator to a provider of a framework into which users (aka readers) do more or most of the content creation themselves.


Meikah said...

I like your idea of employee engagement. It's actually true not only of employees but of all endeavor. Any undertaking which requires you to be involved will most likely be more interesting and fulfilling to do. Another good point you made is about publishing with the readers in mind. I agree with you that we need to keep our articles engaging so that readers will read it and look forward to reading your succeeding articles. Good post!

Double Dubs said...


Real interesting article. I was going to pick it up, but Regina already did that. The possibilities in employee communication are huge. I think it's logical to say that employees who use internal tools to communicate with each other are also generally engaged in their workplace.

What you don't want is something like the chatboards at yahoo. Frustrated employees go there to gripe about benefits, stock price, etc... Monitoring of user generated content becomes pretty important, but censorship would also be viewed very negatively. Do the potential rewards outweigh the risks?