The Medium Gets the Message: Post-Print Publishing Models

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Web First, Print Later
Getting more from content doesn’t always mean moving it from print to online; sometimes it travels in the other direction. There seems to be a general sense that anyone can produce a website or electronic newsletter, but that it takes real investment, commitment, and influence to produce a print publication, one that communicates credibility to the reader. Producing a print version of a traditionally online-only publication also allows publishers to reach those readers for whom print remains the optimal format, like an executive catching up on reading while flying cross-country.

EContent’s publisher Information Today Inc.’s own Enterprise Search Sourcebook traveled the online-to-print route, appearing first as a website affiliated with the Enterprise Search Summit conference, then launching an email newsletter component. Co-editor (and EContent editor-in-chief) Michelle Manafy says that producing the content in small web-sized pieces—which could be delivered at the site and via the newsletters—then compiling it at the end into a print publication allowed the project to be scheduled around the team’s many other projects. “It can be a challenge to squeeze a new publication into the mix, from a production standpoint, but our team created fully designed, near-print-ready PDFs as we worked that could be delivered digitally. Then, we pulled these together at the end to produce a printed annual,” says Manafy.

In March 2007, the first print edition of the Enterprise Search Sourcebook appeared, accompanied by an electronic “flipbook” version online. Co-editor Hugh McKellar says, “We wanted to serve every type of reader, to provide information in as many ways as we could for different reading styles.” He also points out that multiple distribution formats provided incremental opportunities for advertisers to get their message out to readers.

Advertisers are certainly attracted to the powerful web analytics, targeting, and tracking tools available for online campaigns, but figures show that they still favor print advertising by a large margin. According to State of the News Media 2007, an annual report looking at American journalism, revenue from online advertising grew to $12.1 billion in 2006, an admittedly heady increase of 36% over the first nine months of 2005. But spending on newspaper advertising alone during the same period was four times that, almost $55 billion, according to figures from Veronis Suhler Stevenson’s Communications Industry Forecast: 2006–2010 quoted in the same report.

It may be easier to quantify the success of online ad campaigns using tracking and analytics tools, but many advertisers still prefer communicating complex messages more via a full-page ad in a print publication than with an online ad that can be minimized or blocked by the reader.

Podcasting, Mobile, and Beyond
Of course print and online are no longer the only games in town. Publishers need to consider the growing popularity of mobile devices, MP3 players, and even interactive television, thanks to innovations like Apple TV. The proliferation of devices puts the impetus on publishers to enable their content to be accessed when, where, and how the reader prefers, at that particular moment.

Russell Holliman is the CEO and founder of Podcast Ready, which provides software and services to facilitate more widespread adoption of podcasting. “Podcasting should be a part of a publisher’s solution, though not the total solution. We see podcasting as another arrow in the quiver for reaching the audience,” he says.

Holliman applauds the trend of using a podcast to create new content, rather than simply creating an audio file of existing print content. “The technology is there for text-to-speech conversion, but it isn’t as effective as creating podcast-specific content.” Simba analyst Strempel has also seen effective use of podcasting by traditional publishers in the medical market, like McGraw-Hill. “They can produce a podcast relating to a particular disease or subspecialty, making it entirely portable for doctors to listen to whenever, wherever.” He also mentions that publishers can provide book revisions on podcast between editions, thereby building demand for purchase of the print book when it is released.

PaidContent.org’s Ali has seen an increased interest in mobile-optimized versions of his HTML newsletters. “We currently have a text version of our daily email, but we are working on a Blackberry-friendly version due to customer demand,” he says. His goal is to incorporate technology so that PaidContent.org’s daily emails and newsletters will autodetect the device upon which they are being opened—whether it’s a laptop, mobile device, or phone—and display accordingly.

Holliman is also excited about the recent product announcements for Apple TV and TiVo's RSS reader, both of which promise to make television a more robust content platform. “Apple TV is the beginning of what the media experience may be down the road,” says Holliman. “In time I’ll be able to download an article to look at on my television, zap it to my phone, listen in my car, and then read it on my Sony Reader while I wait at the airport.”

Interactive television will certainly underscore another area that’s early in the development cycle, as far as tra- ditional publishing is concerned: video. “YouTube was the innovator that taught us how to embed video,” says Ali. “But now publishers like The Wall Street Journal regularly embed videos into their online editions in a way that lets us incorporate them into our newsletters.”

Still, until video search technology catches up with video content, it’s likely to remain a relatively small component of the post-print publishing landscape. “I wouldn’t even say that video search is at the 1.0 stage; I’d call it version 0.1 right now,” says Ali. Podcast search technology is at an even earlier stage, which limits the ability of consumers to reliably locate podcast content or for publishers to monetize it.

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