It wasn’t that long ago that publishing a digital edition simply meant creating a pdf of your print publication and making it available for download. But these days, publishing a digital edition to suit the appetite of the market requires a bit more creativity and certainly, more resources. When considering its place in a business or product mix, it makes sense to assess the value of publishing a digital edition before continuing down that road.
Digital Editions as Part of a Content Marketing Strategy
It’s important to be specific about what we are discussing here. A digital edition is an online version of a print publication. It maintains these same qualities of a print edition:
Visually resembles the print publication
Is produced in issues
Is available on a subscription basis
A digital edition is not a content marketing strategy. It is part of one. People tend to lump digital editions into conversations about digital content and digital strategies, as if they are one in the same. Digital content encompasses all the content you publish online—and digital editions are part of that content. In turn, digital content is part of your content marketing strategy, which starts with a flexible, scalable, SaaS Enterprise Publishing Platform.
Content Marketing Strategy < Digital Content < Digital Editions
By now, you know that a digital strategy is not just a survival strategy but a growth strategy and digital-first publishing has helped many a publisher weather the transition to a more digital (and mobile) world.
Just how digital (and mobile) are we talking?
Back in May, Jeffrey Litvack cited a recent study that showed over half a billion devices connected to the Internet in U.S. homes—and that the number of devices (5.7) per house was more than double the average number of people per household. He went on to point out that:
“In only a few years publishers have gone from serving an exclusively print and online audience, to now having to reach readers who don’t even own a computer and certainly don’t tote around printed magazines and newspapers.”
Litvack also discussed the makings of a successful digital strategy, which involves cultivating an online presence, mobile-responsiveness and optimization, native apps, newsletters and surprise, surprise, digital editions.
But what purpose do they serve?
Digital editions are perceived as a bridge between print and other digital content—and they fill certain niches that can’t be filled by other components of a content strategy. Publishers explain the value of the digital edition in numerous ways:
They extend the life of the print version. Not only does a print version gain more exposure and live on after it’s vanished from the newsstand, but publishers can leverage material from back issues to support current issues, and make them available to people interested in delving deeper into a topic.
They expand your reach. Some publishers use them to market an international version of their publication. Content is tailored for international readers and the publisher doesn't have to pay for printing and postage overseas.
If done right, digital editions provide a stellar on the go, long-form reading experience. Which includes:
Stronger connection with the content. Unlike website content (which most certainly has its place), giving the reader a beginning and end provides a sense of completion and often, a more emotional connection with the content through a more linear storytelling approach.
Interaction. The digital edition can provide a level of interaction with multimedia, community and social media functions. In some ways, it can simulate the print reading experience, by allowing the reader to “clip and share” content, while in other ways, multimedia can bring the content to life—which is harder to get in print.
They harness the power of the iPad. When a publisher creates a digital edition with the iPad in mind, they are looking at access to a hefty portion of the population. Forrester researchers forecast that one-third of the U.S. population will use tablets by 2016. iPad is still the favorite in the market, and carries the most apps (275) of any.
Digital editions tie well into eCommerce. Readers can be deeply engaged with the content and easily click through to a website of related products.
They provide opportunities to turn prospects into subscribers. People are given the chance to browse material and spend more time with it, in a more structured, thematic way. Meanwhile, publishers can reach prospects without reaching into their pockets to print editions for marketing purposes.
Digital editions create more data gathering opportunities. Tracking how people interact with digital editions and ads therein, provide additional valuable insights to apply to your audience engagement and management strategies.
They make advertisers happy. The average person will spend up to 43 minutes per session with a digital edition and CPMs of digital editions are often equal to or exceed print versions. These are verifiable metrics that advertisers can connect with. They also gain the advantage of creating interactive ads –adding one more layer to the growing opportunities to engage with their target audience. Are advertisers acting on this? iPad ad numbers are steadily growing. Nearly 37% of magazine ad sales come from iPad editions. Up from 31% the previous year.
As you can see, digital editions serve a variety of purposes and they can add value in ways that are unique from other components of your content strategy. Their ability to engage readers, produce a positive ROI and complement your website, newsletters, social media, eCommerce and other online initiatives, makes them a sensible part of a profitable content strategy. Next week, we’ll talk about how some publishers are doing just that.