Revolutionary ideas for digital publishing strategy

Traditional (ie print) consumer and b2b publishers have embraced online publishing, but are now having to get to grips with mobile devices and managing readers and subscribers over multiple digital channels.  This week I attended an event hosted by eZpublish and spoke at the PPA Content Managers Forum on mobile publishing.  The two discussions raised some radical ideas for publishers aiming to integrate their various media channels:

1. Start with the web and then publish to print & mobile

Print publishers have an established print workflow, usually based on Indesign, and then set up separate web CMS to manage the web version of their features and news stories.  Many tablet platforms are now integrating with Indesign so editorial teams can create a tablet edition alongside print.  A cheaper option is to take PDFs and convert them to page turners. But a more radical approach is to upload content first to the web CMS, and then use that to create print PDFs and tablets.  The eZ publish platform for example has the ability to create an Indesign template for print and then populate it with text and images from the content repository in the web CMS, ready to be tweaked for print.

2. Integrate print, online and tablet subscribers

Readers are using all their devices during the day, and expect to be able to access their subscription-only content on their smartphone, tablet and laptop seamlessly.  Many print publishers are providing free access codes to tablet editions for print subscribers as a retention strategy.  But it can be complex to set up.  The story of Insurance Times, which managed to integrate print subscription records to provide automatic online logins in just two days, with the help of Circdata and eZpublish, is an impressive example.

3. Offer personalised content

Many online publishers are already asking their email newsletter subscribers to select topic preferences, so that articles and offers can be tailored to their specific interests and therefore be much more relevant.   The next step is adapting online content to reflect preferred topics, either overtly selected or captured through visitors browsing behaviour.  This may have been considered to be out of the reach of smaller publishers,  but the eZpublish recommend module can do just this.

4. Keep a fluid channel mix

Smaller, niche publishers can feel paralysed by the number of digital publishing channels, and the difficulty of tailoring content to suit each one.  Every market is different: some audiences are early adopters of Apple iPads, such as photography or aviation, so their priorities are iOS; others are keen Kindle users or prefer web-based content.  It’s important not to make too many assumptions, as ownership and usage are changing fast.  One publisher I worked with has just 4% of audience with iPads now, but 20% expected in 2 years time.  Other markets are staunch print supporters and will remain so for some years to come. There’s no substitute for regular reader surveys, and a fluid approach to your mix of digital channels, so greater resource and effort can be devoted to the fastest growing media platforms.

5. Be ready to become a retailer

Consumer publishers are struggling to charge for online content or make much money from web advertising.  Many are turning to transactions – such as Factory’s MPORA or Time OUt’s ticketing – to capture more of the value of their engaged readers’ spend.   And b2b publishers are making more profits from conferences, events, research reports and data-based subscriptions which are sold online.  So integrating commerce into a publisher website is going to be crucial in future.  eZ publish have a plug-in shopping module, and I’m sure other web-CMS for publishers will start to make this easier.

About the author:  Carolyn Morgan works with niche publishers to develop their digital strategy through her consultancy business Penmaen Media.  She also runs the Specialist Media Show, an annual event for niche publishers to learn about new innovations, and moderates the Specialist Media Network on LinkedIn, a community of over 700 consumer and b2b publishers.  Carolyn regularly speaks and writes on digital publishing strategy.  If you’d like an initial discussion about how you can make more money from your content and select the right mix of digital channels please get in touch.