Are dig­i­tal edi­tions dead?

The Insider - - CONTENTS -

Dig­i­tal edi­tions have been around for a long time, go­ing all the way back to the late 90s. But in 2010 when the iPad hit the dig­i­tal run­way, pub­lish­ers jumped on the tablet band­wagon faster than they could shout, “Hal­lelu­jah!” The strug­gling pub­lish­ing in­dus­try had found it­self a sav­ior.

One shouldn’t be sur­prised given that a Har­ri­son Group study that same year of 1,800 con­sumers re­ported that tablet users spent 75% more time read­ing news­pa­pers and 50% more time read­ing mag­a­zines. Har­ri­son also dis­cov­ered in 2012 that 35% of mag­a­zine sub­scribers paid more at­ten­tion to the ads in the dig­i­tal edi­tions than they did in print.

But by 2013, https://gi­­a­zines-fail­ure/ an­a­lysts were declar­ing that the days of dig­i­tal edi­tion mag­a­zine apps were over, based on Al­liance for Au­dited Me­dia data that re­ported that the 25 top-sell­ing dig­i­tal repli­cas ac­counted for only 12% of to­tal sub­scrip­tions, on av­er­age.

When I saw that, I wasn’t at all sur­prised given that many pub­lish­ers did lit­tle to mar­ket them, fear­ing they would can­ni­bal­ize their print edi­tion rev­enues. One re­ally had to dig deep into mag­a­zine and news­pa­per web­sites to find their dig­i­tal edi­tions.

I re­mem­ber when we launched our PressReader iPad app in 2010 and were ridiculed for con­tin­u­ing to sup­port the dig­i­tal replica pre­sen­ta­tion even though it was en­hanced with dig­i­tal fea­tures (e.g. trans­la­tion, au­dio, so­cial shar­ing, com­ment­ing, and text view, to name a few). Pun­dits mocked pub­licly, “It’s like putting a blan­ket over a TV and call­ing it a ra­dio.”

But we knew many of our read­ers en­joyed the en­riched replica view — it was fa­mil­iar, con­ve­nient, and en­gag­ing. We also knew that an­other grow­ing group of our users pre­ferred a more fluid user in­ter­face, which is why we also of­fered them an end­less hor­i­zon­tal stream of con­tent from all our sources — a con­tent stream cu­rated by the crowd.

At that time there was also a grow­ing fas­ci­na­tion with be­spoke, non-PDF-sourced so­lu­tions, which did not rely on the orig­i­nal print lay­out. Us­ing soft­ware that changed or rather cre­ated the new lay­out of con­tent for na­tive apps, these apps re­quired ad­di­tional work­flows and were quite ex­pen­sive to build, which is

why a lot of pub­lish­ers moved away from DPS in fa­vor of a dig­i­tal edi­tion tem­plate of RSS feeds or a sim­ple PDF with in­ter­ac­tiv­ity layers on top of it.

Re­gard­less of the tech­nol­ogy used, I’ve al­ways said that dig­i­tal edi­tions were a niche prod­uct in a frag­mented mar­ket. It’s just one of many dif­fer­ent ways users choose to con­sume con­tent.

When pub­lish­ers moved their free web­site con­tent be­hind a pay­wall, it was very dif­fi­cult for them to mon­e­tize what was once free. But with dig­i­tal edi­tions there was, and still is, a higher will­ing­ness to pay be­cause of the psy­cho­log­i­cal con­nec­tion read­ers make to the phys­i­cal prod­uct.

These apps may not make up a large part of a pub­lisher’s over­all rev­enue, es­pe­cially with more brands diver­si­fy­ing in­come streams, but they do ap­peal to a trust­ing au­di­ence that de­serves spe­cial recog­ni­tion and re­spect for their loy­alty in a world where­sider/cs­b_kBD6bOliykV8JHB_ym6Dvf­pBz746aLd4KhN6pb­hHwFCRAK7asNgGdHb­bFoKXjV2Fl­bJhQpRHNEgVl4hkzKS7CQ trust is so ten­u­ous.

Four years later, the same de­bates about the longevity of dig­i­tal edi­tions con­tinue, but here at PressReader we still see ours re­ceiv­ing a sig­nif­i­cant amount of traf­fic through our ver­ti­cal chan­nel part­ners — thou­sands of ho­tels, air­lines, libraries, tele­com oper­a­tors, etc.

That be­ing said, we are also wit­ness­ing phones over­tak­ing tablet use, putting higher de­mands on pub­lish­ers to of­fer dig­i­tal edi­tions that give users a more en­gag­ing read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on smaller screens. Repli­cas just won’t cut it.

The User Per­spec­tive

Today’s news con­sumers have high ex­pec­ta­tions and want to do more with dig­i­tal edi­tions — de­mand­ing in­ter­ac­tiv­ity, mul­ti­me­dia, break­ing news in­te­gra­tion, shar­ing, com­ment­ing, in­stant trans­la­tion, and text-tospeech fea­tures. And they’re go­ing mo­bile.

But no two read­ers are the same, mak­ing it very chal­leng­ing to of­fer a per­son­al­ized ex­pe­ri­ence to dif­fer­ent peo­ple through the same app. Yet it is pos­si­ble. The key is to give them the qual­ity con­tent they want in the pre­sen­ta­tion they pre­fer — whether that be as in­di­vid­ual ar­ti­cles or pub­li­ca­tions (e.g. dig­i­tal news­stand), or as an all-you-can- con­sume ag­gre­ga­tion of con­tent in ei­ther replica or non-replica form.

The Com­mer­cial An­gle

Dig­i­tal edi­tions aren’t dead, but their growth is not mak­ing up for losses in other ar­eas, such as print cir­cu­la­tion and ad­ver­tis­ing.

Is it the for­mat or the con­tent that’s caus­ing in­ter­est to wane? I don’t think one can gen­er­al­ize, but there is lit­tle doubt that as print edi­tions fall in value in the eyes of read­ers, so will their dig­i­tal edi­tion coun­ter­parts.

The lack of mar­ket­ing of dig­i­tal edi­tions is also not help­ing pub­lish­ers grow dig­i­tal rev­enues. Com­bine that with today’s ar­chaic ABC dig­i­tal edi­tion pric­ing rules in some coun­tries and you’ve got very few in­cen­tives for peo­ple to pur­chase in­di­vid­ual sub­scrip­tions to mag­a­zines or news­pa­pers.­sider/2H1FK3T7X1Z

Fu­tur­ist, Ross Daw­son, says that the fu­ture of­sider/2H1FK3T7X1Z me­dia is plat­forms that com­bined con­tent ag­gre­ga­tion, com­mu­nity, and com­merce. Be­fore the in­ter­net, one could ar­gue that mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers were trusted ag­gre­ga­tors of con­tent (i.e. ar­ti­cles) with a loyal com­mu­nity will­ing to pay for it. Per­haps it’s time for pub­lish­ers to start of­fer­ing con­tent in­stead of in­di­vid­ual mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers, be­cause with today’s global pro­mis­cu­ous pop­u­la­tion, sin­gle sources can­not pro­vide the breadth of con­tent that feeds peo­ple’s pas­sions.

There are­sider/cs­b_IDNcCHoK29Zrr-tyvSXWaFYES5pflC8y­oAOK-4bYeyEdo--8nneogFn0bKzc­tyDSm­cKUPe33OIgEcRn­vnPY6Sg many ag­gre­ga­tors out there now with dif­fer­ent rev­enue mod­els — plat­forms that can of­fer a con­ver­sion fun­nel for me­dia, but whose pri­mary fo­cus is to serve a grow­ing au­di­ence that is not in­ter­ested in a di­rect re­la­tion­ship with pub­lish­ers.

Each of these mod­els is only as vi­able as the qual­ity of con­tent within them. Pub­lish­ers could ar­ti­fi­cially limit the sus­tain­abil­ity of these mod­els by with­hold­ing con­tent from them, but that would not serve the read­ers with whom they need to en­gage.

All-you-can-con­sume is the most user-friendly model, but the price point de­manded by legacy pub­lish­ers is an is­sue. In the mu­sic in­dus­try, the ad-sup­ported freemium model com­bined with the ad-free, ~US$10/month sub­scrip­tion model has been ex­tremely suc­cess­ful for the likes of Spo­tify.

Now, I un­der­stand that con­sumers place dif­fer­ent value in dif­fer­ent con­tent types and that pay­ing for ethe­real pix­els of news is not some­thing many are will­ing to do. But there are par­al­lels in what hap­pened to mu­sic pub­lish­ers and what’s hap­pen­ing to mag­a­zine and news­pa­per pub­lish­ers today.

The dif­fer­ence is that ma­jor record la­bels have been able to re­cover through con­sol­i­da­tion and the adop­tion of con­sumer-friendly mon­e­ti­za­tion mod­els — some­thing legacy pub­lish­ers might want to study fur­ther when look­ing at pric­ing and pack­ag­ing for their con­tent.

The all-you-can-read model that re­lies solely on B2C rev­enue, based on print pric­ing mod­els that have no place on­line, are not vi­able in the long term. Don’t get me wrong, I be­lieve that qual­ity con­tent should be mon­e­tized fairly, but as I’ve said be­fore, that doesn’t mean con­sumers should have to foot the bill. And why should they when there are thou­sands of con­sumer-cen­tric com­pa­nies will­ing to pay on their be­half?

But how does one reach dig­i­tal con­sumers who of­ten don’t have brand loy­alty to spe­cific pub­li­ca­tions? Con­tent dis­cov­ery is the pri­mary driver of traf­fic and data shows that it’s mainly through so­cial.

So it’s good to see that so­cial me­dia edi­to­rial is a high pri­or­ity in­vest­ment for news­pa­per pub­lish­ers this year ac­cord­ing to WAN-IFRA’s 2017 Out­look re­port. But, be­cause we live in a frag­mented world where con­tent can be ac­cessed on so many dif­fer­ent plat­forms, it’s dif­fi­cult for pub­lish­ers to choose which plat­forms to mar­ket. Most of them pro­mote their con­tent on their web­sites, which is fine, but it’s not enough. Con­sumers want choice in terms of user ex­pe­ri­ence, so pub­lish­ers also need to mar­ket the fact that their con­tent is avail­able in a va­ri­ety of ways through dif­fer­ent chan­nels.

And so­cial me­dia isn’t the only way peo­ple are dis­cov­er­ing con­tent. In fact, mes­sag­ing apps have al­ready sur­passed so­cial me­dia in terms of us­age, mak­ing it an im­por­tant part of a pub­lisher’s ac­qui­si­tion mar­ket­ing plan go­ing into 2018.

But, if pub­lish­ers want to build trusted re­la­tion­ships with users, it can’t be done with click­bait tweets and posts to drive traf­fic. It has to start with qual­ity con­tent, a qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ence, and show­ing peo­ple the true value of a deeper re­la­tion­ship — a con­nec­tion where pub­lish­ers can ex­change unique ben­e­fits, con­ve­nience, ex­clu­siv­ity or dis­counts for ac­cess to peo­ple’s per­sonal data.

So what’s the best ap­proach for pub­lish­ers?

My mantra has al­ways been that pub­lish­ers need to fo­cus on their core com­pe­tency — cre­at­ing qual­ity con­tent — and let the ex­perts in tech­nol­ogy do the heavy lift­ing.

I also be­lieve that mas­ter­ing these three pil­lars of a suc­cess­ful mon­e­ti­za­tion strat­egy is es­sen­tial for long-term vi­a­bil­ity:

1. Know your au­di­ence to grow your au­di­ence through smart data. Dig­i­tal edi­tions are not dead. Many read­ers still en­joy them, ex­pect them as part of ev­ery pub­lish­ers’ con­tent of­fer­ing, and are will­ing to pay for them.

2. Di­ver­sify rev­enue streams through com­ple­men­tary prod­ucts and ser­vices in­clud­ing: con­tent repack­ag­ing, events, ex­pe­ri­en­tial, com­mu­nity out­reach, gam­ing, and ex­ploit­ing un­tapped niche markets.

3. Adopt mon­e­ti­za­tion mod­els that give read­ers the right con­tent, at the right time, in the right for­mat, through the right chan­nels, and at the right price.

A mon­e­ti­za­tion strat­egy is only as strong as its weak­est pil­lar. So if you need help­ing build­ing ef­fec­tive and sus­tain­able tac­tics within this strat­egy to max­i­mize suc­cess, let’s talk!

Di­ver­sify rev­enue streams through com­ple­men­tary prod­ucts and ser­vices in­clud­ing: con­tent repack­ag­ing, events, ex­pe­ri­en­tial, com­mu­nity out­reach, gam­ing, and ex­ploit­ing un­tapped niche markets.

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