Today’s publisher lives in a digital world. The internet as we know it began over 25 years ago. The great and powerful iPad – once touted as the salvation for publishers – is already almost a decade old. While print is not dead and will continue to provide a unique and amazing content experience, every publisher must now also be a savvy digital content distributor. But with an ever-growing number of digital platforms and devices to support, those who originally built their business distributing content on paper often still struggle to embrace and perfect a successful digital strategy.

Publishing success fundamentally begins with the editorial process of curating and producing great, trustworthy content for your readers, regardless of medium. There is no substitute. Putting digital lipstick on a pig will at best just make that pig mobile-friendly. Assuming you’ve already built the content foundation for your brand, now is the time to rethink the value proposition of how and why you distribute content digitally.

The Brand Experience Matters

Without question your brand matters and has value. So, why do so many publishers short-change their brand when delivering digital content–even if they haven’t mastered monetizing that content digitally?

Publishers have options on how to distribute content digitally. They can use social media, their website, an aggregation platform (like Apple News), or any number of digital edition platforms. While all of these channels deserve attention in some manner, publishers should not overlook the digital edition format for one important reason–it is the closest brand experience to print. The digital edition concept offers a curated, packaged, and delivered content experience. It provides the same structured feeling as print but is delivered on the devices and platforms that matter to readers. Now more than ever, readers are looking for clarity, organization, and brand guidance in the sea of undifferentiated content that has become publishing on the internet.

The digital edition is also a brand experience you can control. It can and should feel like your brand by featuring your logos, colors, fonts, and imagery and by providing easy access to your other media initiatives like videos, news feeds, and podcasts. It should also be free of unwanted third-party content and ads. Given the significant investment you’ve made in building value in your brand, why settle for anything less than full control over the presentation of your brand to your readers.

Tech Credibility

Today’s reader expects the delivery of device-appropriate content. Adobe released a study last year that found 8 in 10 consumers would stop engaging with content that doesn’t display well on their device. A publisher’s credibility (again, value) is clearly tied to the technology it adopts and presents to its readers. While readers on a desktop can still enjoy the pixel-perfect design you crafted for print, your mobile readers expect readable font sizes, simple content navigation, and a snappy tech experience.

Readers also like useful and emerging technology. Nearly 73 million Americans are now listening to podcasts at home and on their commutes. As a result, publishers are beginning to embrace audio versions of their magazine content, allowing readers to open the digital edition and simply click on an article to listen to it. Other digital publishing trends include reader personalized content, video channel integration, and accessible content for the disabled.

Introducing the right technology to your readers builds value in your brand.

Simplify Your Monetization Strategy

Many publishers struggle with the concept of how to sell and value the numerous advertising opportunities provided by the tech they adopt, especially digital editions. As a result, they do nothing to monetize these properties. This is clearly a mistake.

Your monetization strategy doesn’t have to be complicated. Instead of selling multiple units to multiple advertisers, a digital edition sponsorship program allows you to sell a single advertising package made up of several highly visible ad units to a single sponsor. These packaged units can span across the tech you support. This simplifies the selling process for the publisher and maximizes the advertising value for the sponsor. Moreover, while readers have the capacity to appreciate the need for advertising, recent history has shown that they clearly value a clean and unobstructed content experience. Without question, ads need to be less obtrusive and more thoughtfully implemented.

Reconsider the Paywall

A viable alternative to a strictly ad-reliant revenue model is the paywall. Readers are craving quality, trustworthy content. In recognition, an increasing number of publishers are charging readers for access to some or all of their content. And thanks to the current subscription economy (see Netflix and Spotify), consumers are showing a willingness to pay.

Some critics claim that the paywall is simply the latest recycled publishing fad doomed to fail. But is it really so outrageous to believe that your content is unique from the mass of unqualified information on the internet? Paywalls are a great way to place a very direct value on your content and, in the process, provide that clean and unobstructed reading experience. It also beats giving away content to readers on aggregator platforms in exchange for promises of the elusive revenue share.  

Actionable First-Party Data

Understanding reader engagement with your digital content is vital to developing and maintaining a strong content strategy and one of the best tools for driving new revenue. At its most basic level, digital engagement data provides value in telling you which articles are doing well, where your readers are located, what devices they use to read your content, whether your digital readership is growing or shrinking, and more. Despite the obvious value of this intelligence, it often goes overlooked and unused.

You can also use your digital edition to ask readers for information by integrating a survey or questionnaire to gain valuable first-party intent data–information about the reader’s intended activities/interests. Asking directly for the data can alleviate privacy concerns as your readers volunteer the information at your request and provide you with more accurate audience data to help better inform your content and shape your ad sales strategy.

Again, success ultimately begins with quality content. But when it comes to your digital strategy, it’s time to change the perspective on exactly how it adds value to your brand.