The content strategies of old media outlets are getting a complete makeover: undergoing a little nip here and a tuck there to meet users' expectations for instantaneous, scalable delivery to the devices and platforms of their choosing, while still providing content worth viewing. Some companies find themselves stuck between old and new media silos, but according to Ron Miller, a freelance journalist covering the technology and media industries, the real solution lies in picking the best from both worlds-thoughtfully adapted content that provides additional context through new media devices and applications to create an innovative user experience.
"The best uses of new media abandon the old ways and look for new ways to interact with viewers in a completely different fashion because in most cases, the old models don't apply anymore," Miller says.
That isn't to say that newspapers are dead or that books have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Instead, content creators are hoping to reinvent the physical experience of old media to meet new digital demands. As traditional media companies look to recapture lost readership through digital channels, they have to learn how to replace experiences unique to old media with new and equally engaging ones that add a different kind of value. "Rigidity in this case will kill you," Miller says. "Look at what the new media companies, the ones starting from scratch, are doing, because without the baggage of old models, chances are these companies will be the ones to take fullest advantage of the new delivery channels."
Putting Your Digital Foot Forward: Embrace Digital Publishing
Until the e-reader came along, books hadn't changed much in hundreds of years, and many publishers are still struggling to update the age-old production process to accommodate digital demands. Even as some publishers bring dazzling, new, interactive experiences to the ebook, there are much-loved traditional user experiences that digital books will never be able to reproduce, says Karen Hunter, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who launched First One Digital Publishing in January. "I stood in line for hours to buy the last Harry Potter book, and that experience can't be re-created [with an ebook]," Hunter says. "Books that are signed are impossible to reproduce in ebook format. They do have a way to have your ebook signed, but the reason you get a book signed is so that you have it as a keepsake. Having a piece of signed plastic just isn't the same. Those kinds of things are gone with the digital experience."
Rather than mourning the loss of the old ways and clinging to the traditional publishing format, Hunter and First One have embraced a digital-first mentality as the foundation on which to build entirely new ties with users, as well as to connect on a more interactive and innovative level with authors themselves. First One touts itself as the first book publisher to put the focus squarely on the author, emphasizing that no matter what the medium, content is king.
The author is also at the center of First One's digital publishing strategy, using new media tools such as blogging, live chats, and Skype conversations to put a human face on each volume published. With a number of viral contests and worldwide author searches, First One intends to leave no stone unturned in search of the next great writer. Hunter promoted its launch in January by conducting a nationwide fiction contest in search of the next great American novelist, with a digital publishing deal and global marketing campaign as the prize. At the same time, First One is engaging readers through new media tools such as its book club app to develop a devoted community.
The goal isn't just to attract early adopters who already have a stack of ereaders on their nightstands, Hunter says, but also to hook skeptics who need some convincing to upgrade their book reading experience. "We will not only have our content available for all digital platforms, but we will not veer away from the roots and foundations of publishing-which is producing good books," Hunter says. "Our other new model is ‘producing good books with good people.' The ‘who' matters to us as much as the what, because we want to release books that move people."