The idea of a unique professional identity has been around for years, and the publishing industry is replete with examples of editors and publishers whose personas are intertwined with magazine titles. Helen Gurley Brown, William F. Buckley Jr., Hugh Hefner, Henry R. Luce, Grace Mirabella and Diana Vreeland are among the personalities who evoke immediate associations with specific magazines and eras.
They were the influencers of their day, which makes the current crop of personalities considered social media stars so disappointing.
It’s hard to imagine Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (or “PewdiePie,” the most-followed star of YouTube), video-gamer Richard Tyler Blevins (“Ninja” on Twitch) or anyone in the Kardashian clan reading a book past the first few chapters.
Literary worldliness may be an unfair and anachronistic benchmark to set for today’s influencers, like complaining that rap sensation Cardi B doesn’t know anything about fifth-species counterpoint. The top YouTubers are laughing all the way to the bank, as pianist Liberace said in response to a question about critics who disparaged his playing style.
I’d like to see more publishers and editors make bank while carving out bigger identities on social-media platforms that are key sources of news and information. In most cases, an influencer strategy is rooted in traditional media goals of reaching key audiences that appeal to advertisers and establishing an authoritative editorial voice.
Publishers have experience in creating original content and finding brand partners as sponsors. They also have become more adept at developing strategies to cope with ad-blocking technology, such as native advertising that can inform readers while making a sales pitch.
Spending on social-influencer marketing is forecast to reach several billion dollars this year, according to several estimates. Publishers are well positioned to participate in that market with a solid digital influencer strategy.