Next generation digital editions

As a print-based publisher creating a digital edition, it’s tempting just to squirt a PDF of the magazine pages onto a page turner and think that the job is done.  But there is far greater value to be had by creating a bespoke variant of your subject matter that is more precisely tailored to suit how people read digital editions.  Here’s some simple principles to help you create a “next generation” digital edition:

1. Design for the medium

Web visitors reading a digital edition tend to scan text and are expecting a shorter read.  They hate to have to zoom in.  Sub down your copy to provide fewer words, and use a larger type size – say 14 point.  Computer screens are landscape, so design in spreads.

2. Create a distinct product

Don’t duplicate the print product.  Create something distinct which can be consumed more rapidly.  The digital edition reader may be a separate group who are looking for a summarised version – a digest rather than an indepth read.

3. Extras build engagement

Use the medium to build engagement.  Digital editions lend themselves to slideshows, video and animation.  Guitar magazine uses audio clips in its digital edition.  Richer content can mean readers spend 10-15 minutes with your digital magazine, compared to maybe 4-5 mins on the web site. Provide social media sharing tools for readers to pass on quality content to their contacts.  Use the metrics available for digital mags to work out which “extras” drive page views and minutes on the mag.

4. Network the content

Include links to the main website, and make the most of your archive for those readers who want to delve deeper.  Add links to twitter or Linked-in to build a relationship with readers and seek their contribution to your content.  Post content from the digital mag back on your social media pages.

5. Sell benefits to advertisers

Most profitable digital editions are largely ad funded.  So you need to explain to advertisers why they have special value. Unlike a banner, ads in digital editions are full page, and, just like a print magazine, benefit from an engaged audience.  Editorial interaction accustoms readers to also interact with ads. Links to video from ads are particularly productive when readers are used to video in the editorial content.

So the key to success in digital editions is planning them as a distinct medium, and using them to engage a new audience, some of whom you may convert to your print edition, but others who actually prefer this medium and offer a new audience to advertisers.

I’d be interested to hear the experiences of other publishers in developing bespoke digital editions – please comment below or join the Specialist Media Network on Linked in to discuss with other specialist media owners.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan runs Penmaen Media, who create practical digital media and marketing strategies, and have particular expertise with media businesses.  Carolyn is also Content Director for the Specialist Media Show, and regularly contributes articles and speaks at conferences on digital media and marketing strategy.