Do You Need to be a Publisher and a Tech Company? Three Questions to Help You Decide.

March 12, 2013

There is no question that technology is now an integral part of publishing, as we have moved away from print and embraced various digital options.  For many, the lines between technology companies and publishing companies have become blurry, and as early as a decade ago, publishers routinely invested in hardware and hired IT staff in an effort to retain the same level of control of their online brand as they had with their print brand.

Recent trends, however, suggest that there are more likely paths to success than adding software development and systems administration to our core competencies.   While becoming a tech company can set the mind ablaze with new ideas and opportunities, it can also overwhelm with daunting, unfamiliar tasks.

It’s true that today’s publishers must keep in step with evolving industry to keep up with rapidly changing consumer habits, such as the increasing use of mobile devices to access online resources. It wouldn’t be surprising, for instance, if you’ve already considered the idea of converting your site to a responsive design. We want to meet customer expectations effectively but, is it necessary to put the cart before the horse by becoming something we aren’t?

Perhaps the more appropriate question to start with is:

“What would you rather be: a publisher or a technology company?"

As you know, you are more likely to succeed at something you are passionate about.  Publishers bring passion and a high level of expertise to creating high quality content.  Adding technology to the list; proceeding on an unfamiliar path full of challenges and costs you can’t possibly or entirely anticipate, has produced mixed results at best.

Luckily, this isn’t an either/or situation. There are many options along the road between publishing and technology. The most important consideration is to assess whether a strategic partner in technology could make your transition to digital more effective and produce a higher return on investment.

If you are wondering what approach is best for you, ask yourself these three questions when thinking about how to proceed into the world of online publishing technology:

1. How do I hire and retain the best IT staff?

As a publisher, chances are you haven’t hired or managed before for the types of tech positions you’ll need to grow your online presence. Most publishers are in unfamiliar territory when recruiting for IT skill sets that will keep their company on the leading edge.

Of course, you want to make sure that you’ve not only found the most qualified and motivated people, but you also want to provide them the resources they need to do the best job, including leadership, training and career growth opportunities that foster technical expertise as much as publishing expertise.

To keep your technology current, you'll need to invest in training to keep your technology staff skills on the leading edge. Technology companies are set up to maintain a variety of skills and career paths for IT staff.  Are you willing and able to take this on?

2. Do I have the critical resources for online logistics and support?

Success in online publishing boils down to one thing: end user experience. There are a lot of factors that go into this—quality of content, of course—but without a stable and consistent infrastructure, it’s likely that your readers can’t access that content and engage with it effectively.

At the very basic level, you know you have to have the hardware, operating system and application levels to effectively power and maintain your website. Does the thought of this make you feel like a deer caught in the headlights? You need the expertise to understand, trouble shoot and update that infrastructure.

If you don’t have stability, redundancy, security, compliance and scalability—and the people who not only light up when those words are spoken, but can also interpret their meaning and put them into practice—you will likely be faced with sporadic and unpredictable results that translate to unhappy customers and stalled sales. Is there someone with this fabulous talent on your staff who can implement and manage these key areas, or can you afford to hire that person?

3. How do I identify growth and opportunity in the technological arena?

While technology is a critical part of the evolving publishing world, it’s not the only part. You likely have a lot of balls in the air and your priority, as a publisher, may be generating valuable content for readers, along with sponsorship and advertising opportunities.

But you don’t want to miss out on opportunities to explore new revenue models, learn best practices and gain thought leadership driven by new technology and features. You want to be infused with these new ideas, in order to fold them into your overall content marketing and publishing strategy. Do you have someone already providing you with this insight or, again, is it in your budget to hire for this critical position?

By answering these questions, you may start seeing the challenges inherent to matching the technological requirements of a leading publishing strategy.

Many publishers are finding value in collaborating with a strategic partner who handles the technology effectively and proactively by providing appropriate staffing, logistics, support and the ability to track growth opportunities under one roof.

By taking on the responsibility of providing the best experience possible, 24 x 7, to your online audience, your technology partner will prove that you don’t need to be anything more than the stellar publishing company that you are, focused on what you do best: creating content that delivers value to readers, marketing opportunities for advertisers and sponsors and a positive ROI for you.