July 24, 2013

Challenges to Digital Transition

By John Laliberte

Web Application Developer


Throughout history, the written word has been the primary reliable source for information in human society.  Starting in the 17th century, the power of print transformed society. Publications began evolving into newspapers, imparting knowledge and, during their best moments, promoting democracy.

That began to change in the 20th century, when radio and television threatened the dominance of the publishing giants. Publishers responded by taking a reduced role, often adopting more specialized content. Many publishers who survived these upheavals developed prestige and notoriety for their expertise in niche knowledge. However, this prestige and strong tradition often led to stubbornness when facing change.

And change came quickly. Radio and television profoundly expanded information availability in previously inconceivable ways, effectively shrinking the world. These media also faced challenges when the experiment of the Internet began connecting scientists in the ‘60s and, with the advent of the web, consumers in the ‘90s.

The older technical revolutions seem small when compared with the Internet’s emergence. In 2009, the bleakest year for print, The Pew Research Center reported that publishers’ advertising revenue dropped almost 25 percent. Many thought that the Internet renaissance threatened the relevance of print publishers.

Some publishers adapted, pointing to a natural path to digital integration. Bob Sacks, a publisher since 1970, told Folio that "digital magazine editions are the natural and logical extension of paginated media for the successful future of the publishing industry.”  However, not all publications executed the migration well.  The problem was—and still is—that most companies are still uncertain how to accomplish that integration. 

Complicating this problem is the understandable hesitancy for advertisers to invest in digital ad space. Publishers have had the luxury of selling ad space at a premium in the print world.  In 2013, the Alliance for Audited Media reported that The New York Times’ Sunday print edition maintains a circulation of nearly 1.25 million. That 12- by 6.75-inch paper page is assured to seen by a large number of qualified consumers and it still carries the relative advertorial significance of a Super Bowl commercial. 

In contrast, the Internet has created nearly infinite space, making it difficult to quantify.  Advertisers deal with fluffy statistics such as page views, which can be composed largely of automated web crawler hits. Page reloads and script errors pad statistics. Even though digital subscriptions are rising—The New York Times Sunday digital subscriptions are only 200,000 less than the print subscriptions—online advertising has yet to be an easy sell for publishers.

Online advertising revenue is only one of the many challenges for publications migrating to the digital platform. Even if the company chooses to outsource, managers are still faced with hiring information technology staff. Training is needed for all employees involved in the digital process. Publishers need to pay for digital advertising management, site metrics, customer service, user data management, and more. And sometimes these costs come in the face of already reduced revenues from the print product.

In order to turn a profit, a publication’s website needs a revenue model just as its print counterpart does.

A website alone is not enough. That’s where IProduction helps bridge the digital gap.

IProduction exists to aid publishers in the digital transition. We are a software as a service company that specializes in the publishing industry and we know the best ways to build revenue online. The IProduction platform is a fully integrated database architecture. We provide everything publishers need—from details such as online user activity and email opens, to complete content management systems.

Hesitant to give up your preferred content management system? Then don’t!  IProduction’s tools integrate with third party systems such as WordPress and Drupal. We also support integration with fulfillment, analytics and email vendors. We can do it all—or work to streamline all the disparate services that work for you, but not with each other.

With thoughtful planning and wise expenditures, a print publisher can become a digital giant.

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