In Digital Publishing, Speed Brings Swift Lessons

July 31, 2012

Speed can be intimidating—and exhilarating. When it comes to online publishing, one often walks the line between the two. You don’t just want to keep up with the ever-changing game; you want to be on top of it. Luckily, one of the benefits of speed is that there are a lot of test cases out there to give you insight on what is working and what isn’t—and results emerge quickly. Some companies are in a position to move like lightning and perhaps take risks that you aren’t comfortable taking. Use their speed to your advantage.

Take Business Insider, for example. The site attempts to bring fun into financial journalism and its visitors are graced with a range of content—from images of pretty ladies to mug shot-style photos with blunt headlines. Although it has yet to turn a profit, Business Insider has enjoyed a significant boost in monthly unique visitors that has brought them up to 5.4 million, and a full-time staff that doubled in a year. What can we learn from them and other online forces like Mashable, TechCrunch and PaidContent?

There are two fundamental credos to live by, if you are going the way of digital publishing:

Don’t bother questioning if digital publishing is a viable business; simply pursue the answer to how you can do it better. 

Traffic is everything, because your content needs to be seen. It used to be that no one liked being caught in traffic, but now you have to find ways to not only drive a lot of people to your site, you want to keep them there.

You know that traffic increase and audience engagement starts with context awareness, strong design and a flexible SaaS CMS.  But what else?

  • Diversify your content. Directories, multimedia, guest contributors, unique advertising and sponsorship opportunities, conferences, related products and subscriptions will not only drive traffic, but revenue.
  • Don’t compromise integrity and quality for speed. You know your readers. It is important to post fresh content, but not at the expense of offending or disappointing your audience.
  • Don’t be afraid of taking risks and testing things out. The next generation of readers will give you instant feedback (because you are already tapped into the social network).
  • That being said, make sure you have clear goals and a consistent brand. Speed does not mean arbitrary.
  • Hone your siteonality. Let your writers show who they are and develop a rapport with their audience.
  • Form partnerships with other related businesses—and broaden each other’s readership.
  • Make the work easier. Use the tools that make frequent updates, edits and changes look like an open road, not a roadblock.