How to prioritise which digital media channels to publish on

Last week I ran a Digital Publishing Masterclass for a small group of niche publishers, who knew they needed a digital strategy but felt overwhelmed by the sheer range of opportunities available.  Not only did they need to plan their web content and select what was free and what should be paid-for, but they also had to select the right mix of mobile channels, across iOs, Android, Kindle and other smartphone app stores.  Plus there’s the task of co-ordinating social media and managing and extending an email database.  We spent all day reviewing the options, but if you want a quick steer, here’s a set of four criteria which should help identify the top priorities:

1. Reader usage of devices and channels

A great first step is to survey your audience, both current print subscriber and email newsletter recipients, and also social media followers and web visitors.  Find out what devices they are using and how they are using them.  You might get some surprising results.  Remember to use this exercise to check out the competition and don’t neglect the international potential audience for your content: this has been a surprise benefit for many niche publishers

2. What content readers value

Use the survey, plus your own insight from Google Analytics on top-rated content and search terms, click patterns on emails and any face to face contact with your readers, to work out what topics they are most interested in.  General trends are that news isn’t considered worth paying for, but data, insider information, buyers guides and exclusive access are.  B2B audiences are more willing to pay for online content if it helps them save money or time in their job.  Consumer audiences are prepared to pay for magazine editions on tablet or e-reader.

3. Content creation costs

Review the content you already have available or can repackage at low cost.  Archive material, or timeless articles that can be repurposed in a “special” or as a “guide” can provide valuable content for testing out new digital channels without significant editorial investment.  But watch out for copyright on images and text.

4. Revenue options

Each platform has its own pricing levels, commissions and distribution costs, and development costs to take into account.  Some work well for one-off payments, others are great for subs.  Some have great ad options: eg it is easier to create bespoke ads on tablet editions than on a Kindle version.  Again check out competitor pricing and assess how much net revenue there is for your content in each channel.

The answer for each publisher is different, as audiences adopt new digital channels at different rates,and some have opportunities to repackage content at a very low cost.  But this should provide a starting point to assess your priorities.

If you feel you do need a whole day to talk this through in a small group, and discuss the learning from a wide range of publisher case studies, plus pick up some tips on how to choose suppliers and get the best out of each channel, then I’m running the next Digital Publishing Masterclass on 7 February 2012 in London.  Contact me for more information.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan works with niche publishers to develop their digital strategy.  She also runs the Specialist Media Show, an annual exhibition and conference for niche publishers.  Carolyn frequently writes and speaks on the challenges of digital publishing.  More at Penmaen Media.