How to Turn a Print Strategy into a Digital Publishing Strategy and Survive the Future

The time is now to upgrade your print business with a multiplatform digital publishing strategy

A print magazine looks, smells and feels good in your hands. When we asked digital natives why they might prefer paper over a digital magazine in a study a few years ago, that was their answer. Back in 2011 when we conducted that study, only 22% of our respondents said they subscribe to digital magazines. About 50% said they subscribed to print.

In the same year, Jann Wenner, co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone notoriously declared that digital magazines were the future, but not for a while.

“Not months. Decades, probably. People’s habits will shift, they’ll make improvements in the delivery system, the screen will change, it will get lighter, whatever, and new people growing up will find that as a habit. But you’re talking about a generation at least, maybe two generations, before the shift is decisive,” he told AdAge.

Some took this to mean they should hang back on developing a digital publishing strategy. But smart publishers, including Wenner himself, didn’t take this as a “wait and see” opportunity. In fact, Wenner launched a Rolling Stone app soon after.

Smarter publishers never saw digital magazines as the be-all-end-all of a digital publishing strategy anyway – not even a little.

The smartest publishers saw digital magazines as just one platform of many. Sure, digital magazines may take one or two generations to adopt entirely, but in the meantime, there are other digital products to be made.

The publishers who have adopted a multiplatform strategy in the interim, while the world was busy crying doom and gloom, have gone on to lead incredibly fruitful businesses.

And the truth is that if your magazine is still your only product, and you waited for the revolution to come to you, your company is in trouble.

But it’s not too late.

You can still save it by adopting a digital publishing strategy that includes multiple platforms.

While some publishers might consider their magazine the center of their brand universe, savvy publishers consider it just one of the many platforms that they publish on. For example, The New Yorker distributes its content across 10 different platforms. Their magazine may be the origination source of most of their content, but it’s used everywhere.

The content produced for The New Yorker isn’t just for the magazine, it gets turned into blogs on their website, snippets in their emails, videos, spoken through audiocasts, repurposed in issue archives, licensed through their cartoon bank, sold in their store, told out loud at their events, and finally, configured for mobile devices. Sometimes, they even create apps that only use specific content.

A magazine publisher can develop a multiplatform digital publishing strategy like The New Yorker  by creating at least three to five new platform products, often through the use of content recycling.

I won’t tell you that the effort it takes to recycle content across platforms is free or easy, but what I will say is that it’s cheap and not terribly difficult. Below are some of the most popular platforms that publishers recycle magazine content across:

  • Portals
  • Free Reports
  • Email Newsletter
  • Blog Articles
  • Books
  • Live Events
  • Online Events (webinars)
  • Archives
  • Digital Magazines
  • Subscription Websites

A Portal is your all-encompassing website, which gives away free content (blog articles) in return for website traffic. Free reports or freemiums are created and given away in exchange for an email address. Email newsletters then recycle the portal content and are sent to those email subscribers. Email newsletter and promotional newsletters promote paid products alongside the free content, like books, events, digital magazines and other premium products.

Books can be created by recycling magazine articles into chapters. Live events get created by turning articles into presentations. Webinars are then created by turning live events into online seminars. Subscription websites are developed by organizing and webifying print content into a paid back-issue archive.

As you can see, it all starts with your print magazine. From there, pick several platforms to expand across in order to boost revenues with less associated expenses.

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