Why You Should Think of Your Website as a Publishing Ecosystem

February 3, 2014

If you look it up, you'll find the extended definition (sorry Google) of ecosystem: "a complex set of relationships among the living resources, habitats, and residents of an area."

OK, fine for a swamp, but a website?  Well, think about it. There are a lot of moving parts: you tap many contributing resources and systems, and hopefully benefit from the interaction with inhabitants (readers, customers, visitors) of your environment.

Until recently, most publishers have availed themselves of many diverse and separate systems: one for articles, another for blogs, yet another for email, events, eCommerce, audience data management and on and on.  Each system's user interface and tools require separate training, cutting and pasting and multiple data entries. 

How do you leverage all these valuable and often expensive resources to enhance your readers' experience, improve business performance and increase your ROI?  Synchronizing data across systems to deliver relevant content, automate processes and ultimately create an individualized experience has become the brass ring for publishers.  What does that mean?  Here are a few examples I might find when I visit your ecosystem:

  • Seeing resources exactly related to an article I'm reading on your site
  • Purchasing access to premium content without leaving your site or having to wait for my account data to be re-entered
  • Finding a record of my purchase in my account so I can redownload
  • When I comment on an article, finding those comments indexed by topic in Search results, along with related articles, products, and company listings

If I'm on your editorial staff, I find myself at the center of a publishing ecosystem that is a dynamic, efficient environment:

  • Create content once and deliver to multiple channels, automatically: mobile, email, RSS, web, print
  • Target content based on topic preferences, comments, purchases and articles read
  • Deliver value-added resources to readers across subscription or website boundaries

And, when you get all the moving parts working together, you'll likely make more money from it:

  • Advertisers will pay more for leads with a complete profile that shows interest in their product or service
  • Subscribers will buy and renew when you deliver content that exactly meets their preferences
  • Shoppers are more likely to buy, and buy more, when they can read customer reviews for each product on your site
  • Shoppers are more likely to buy when you recommend relevant, related resources in context and they can purchase without leaving your site
  • Buyers buy more when they are referred to your site by a colleague on social media

Let's get back to the most important aspect of a unified ecosystem: user experience.

An engaging user experience is no accident.  It helps if you work with an Enterprise Publishing System (EPS) that brings together many heretofore separate applications - articles, products, events, listings and other resources semantically associated by a built-in taxonomy system, automatically optimized for search engines and accessible on a single dashboard.

But no system does it all, nor should it.

A critical component to making all the "living resources" and inhabitants of your ecosystem work together is the integration of your publishing system with your audience data.  What are the characteristics of an ecosystem that functions to sustain and grow your business?

1. Single Sign-On (SSO): Readers register only once to access diverse resources: downloads, archives, eLearning.

2. Authentication: Similar to SSO, customers gain immediate access to premium content when they register or purchase on your site.  If you are testing a metered paywall, pay per view or other premium content tactics, instant authentication is critical to your success.

3. Subscription Status: subscribers want to manage eNews and subscriptions without jumping through many hoops.  Subscription data you gather on your site should synch automatically with lists you maintain in your eMail Service Provider and Fulfillment systems.

4. Facilitate sharing, commenting, reviews and other user generated content and know what social media channels move traffic to your site.

5. Audience Behavioral Data: monitor and compile data for each subscriber or customer.  Most importantly, make that data actionable when you can see each person's purchase history, topic and delivery preferences, and behavior on your site.  Are they viewing your content on a mobile device?  Are they really using their subscription?  How can you add value to make sure they renew or buy related products?

An ecosystem sounds great in theory, but are publishers really out there creating their own?  And what are the results?  Well, here are just a few examples:

- Natural Gas Intelligence gathers detailed audience behavioral data to enhance subscription and renewal efforts and steer editorial strategy.

- Housing Wire presents related company listings in context with articles and targets user groups with multiple eNewsletters.

- Premier Guitar: mobile traffic, reader interaction and sharing drive 200%+ gains in site traffic.

Bottom line: placing your business at the center of a dynamic ecosystem depends on the capabilities of your Enterprise Publishing System, and equally important, the ability of your provider to integrate with dependent systems to create the best possible experience for your customers and site visitors.  Anything short of a sustainable, growing ecosystem could mean....extinction.

Is it time to start thinking scientifically to sustain and grow your business, too?