For most of the 20th Century, print publication was big business. Newspaper, magazine, and book publishers had something of a monopoly on everything from current events and lifestyle content to educational books and fiction. Then, starting around 2000, the Internet broke big, and print revenues dropped by around 50 percent over the next 20 years.
For the modern publisher, the news looks grim. Yet, not all hope is lost. Digital publishing offers a means to take advantage of Internet traffic and convert your underperforming publication into a more reliable revenue stream.
Not sure what conversion to digital publishing would look like or what it would mean? Keep reading for our guide to digital publishing, including what to expect and how to prepare.
What Is Digital Publishing?
It’s an important question without clear-cut answers. Let’s say that you create PDFs and publish them online.
Is that digital publishing? In a word, yes.
Is that good digital publishing? It’s not good digital publishing because PDFs offer a notoriously poor user experience on mobile devices. Given that people increasingly access online content on their phones, you’ll take a hit on the revenue front.
Good digital publishing means that you offer the same kind of content you used to offer in print, in an online format that accommodates the most commonly used technology. In other words, you need an HTML approach with responsive design baked in to adjust to screen size.
There are several common challenges that prevent print publishers from adopting a digital publishing strategy. Let’s break down a few of the more common ones.
No Tech Team
Many small and medium-sized publishers lack dedicated tech teams that can take charge of a transition to digital publishing and offer digital publishing tips. If these publishers have a website, it was often created in-house with no thought of going digital down the road.
PDF to HTML Conversions
Many publishers lean on the PDF format because it’s a known quantity. After all, PDFs don’t always look great, but you can open them on almost any digital device. Publishers don’t relish the idea of learning how to manage the conversion of digital documents to an HTML format.
Any publication that’s survived for over a couple of years has some existing subscribers. The publisher worries about offering their existing subscribers access to the new digital version of the publication. A desire that’s often complicated by the fact that print subscriber lists are usually in a separate program from the digital subscriber database.
Some publishers tried a digital strategy using a branded platform. It was only afterwards they discovered the platform functioned as a walled garden that kept important information like subscriber information and data analytics to itself. All of that in conjunction with taking a piece of revenue off the top and promoting the platform in your publication.
Mobile access isn’t always top of mind for would-be digital publishers, but it almost inevitably becomes a concern. Too many people want their content through an app. Some will take it through a progressive app, but many want a native app they can load on their phones.
How to Prepare for Digital Publishing?
The list of challenges above might seem insurmountable, but they aren’t. You don’t need to hire a team of developers and IT experts. In fact, you don’t even really need to understand the PDF-to-HTML conversion process.
For a publication with a shaky revenue stream and rising print publication costs, switching to digital may sound like a no-brainer. Don’t assume that everyone will be automatically on board.
People resist change, partly because they build their workdays around existing processes. A radical change means that everyone must relearn their jobs.
Have a frank discussion with your core team, explain why you’re making the change, the consequences of not making the change, and ask for buy-in.
Find a Platform
Your first step in preparing for digital publishing is finding a platform that helps you solve these problems. The ideal platform will let you:
- Create a website
- Handle PDF-to-HTML conversion
- Import a CVS file of existing subscribers
- Provide complete data transparency
- Let you create native apps for the publication
A publishing platform that solves these problems knocks down most barriers preventing small and mid-sized publishers from making the leap to digital publishing.
Ideally, the platform will provide other benefits, such as drag-and-drop editing, CRM, and marketing options to simplify your life.
Assemble Your Digital Assets
If you have gone the PDF publishing route, you’ll have a range of digital assets. The PDF files are your primary assets, but not the only ones.
Other digital assets can include:
- Graphics, such as your logo
- Video content
- Audio content
While you might not use all these assets, you want them stored in one easy-to-access location. Just as importantly, this is the time to settle on a strict file naming convention for everyone’s ongoing sanity.
The Digital Publishing Process
The actual publishing process is, in many ways, the easiest part. If you have existing PDFs, you feed them into the conversion tool. That should import them into the platform editor.
The editor should let you handle a wide range of formatting tasks. In addition, it let you handle more administrative tasks, such as category selection or even bundling content into collections.
Once you’re satisfied with how the content looks, you literally publish it to the web.
Digital Publishing and You
Many print publishers resist moving to digital publishing. It’s a new process with new tools and expectations. Yet, the ever-diminishing revenue of print publishing makes the change a necessity for long-term survival.
The good news is that you can find all-in-one platforms that help you overcome the biggest challenges of the digital publishing process, such as PDF conversion, site creation, and content editing tools.
Magloft provides that kind of all-in-one solution for print publishers looking to make the switch. Check out our features page to learn more about what we can offer to you.