The Four Pillars of Digital-First Publishing

January 26, 2015

Now that you know why data is important to your publishing strategy, you’re probably wondering how you get to a place where you spend less time thinking about data and more time publishing content and engaging your readers. You’re probably still asking yourself, “But, what’s my next step in becoming a digital-first publisher?”

That’s a big question. We know that you can’t become digital-first overnight. We know that taking a digital-first approach requires a shift in your overall business and editorial strategy. It’s likely that you’ve already taken some steps and you are just trying to get to the next level. Making this transformation is as much about finesse as it is about resources.

But, consider the four pillars of digital-first publishing to start. This will help inform you of where you are, where you need to fill in gaps and what your priorities are.

1)   Your Website. This may seem like a no-brainer to you. Of course your website is the pillar of digital-first publishing. But, it can’t be any old website. It needs to be:

  • Rooted in a SaaS Content Management System. Why? Digital-first is all about expanding your revenue streams. You need to be able to efficiently develop, edit and disseminate content across multiple channels.
  • Poised for Growth. Back to multiple revenue streams: even if you aren’t currently offering events, buyers guides, hard products, webinars, etc. a true digital-first strategy will eventually take you there. If your website has the infrastructure for this kind of expansion, it will save you a lot of time, frustration and money in the long run.
  • Mobile-Responsive. That’s just the way of the world these days. With more and more readers accessing content from multiple devices, mobile responsiveness is a guarantee that you won’t lose them in the shuffle.

2)   Your Audience. Is this beginning to sound a lot like common sense to you? Well, it is—but there subtle grooves and angles to each pillar, and those are where you find your grains of success. You know the value of individualization and how data can help you with that. Part of knowing your audience is knowing where to find them. But it’s also about knowing whom they know or who might be similar to them. You have to go and find your audience in digital-first publishing. It’s not, “if you print it, they will come” anymore.

  • Where do you get the most engagement from your audience? What channels are the liveliest? Social media? Your blogs? Newsletters?
  • Are your readers on a desktop, smartphone or tablet?
  • What channels have you historically ignored—or which are you curious about? Explore them!

3)   Your Team. How your team works together and the expertise they possess is a big indicator of whether or not you are truly ready to go digital-first. Take a look at your team.

  • Do you have a lot of folks who came up in the print era and might be stuck there—or are they thinking out of the box?
  • Are your marketing, sales, IT and editorial departments collaborating on strategy?
  • Do you have data and digital rock-stars to help you make the leap?
  • Does your team do social media? Effectively?

4)   Your Content. Of course it comes down to your content. It always comes down to your content. Quality is ever important and even more so, in this day and age, when people are bombarded with far too much information to consume their precious little time. But, it’s more than quality:

  • Can you easily alter your content to suit digital reading styles?
  • Do you seamlessly integrate multimedia?
  • Do you present related, relevant content in Search and Topics pages?
  • Are you successfully repurposing and resurfacing content?
  • Do you create a community and dialogue around your content?

Examining these four pillars can easily inform your short and long-term strategy. But remember, infrastructure is easy to build and expand on. Concepts crumble without a framework to support them.