The world has completely changed over the last decade. Mobile ownership and content consumption has exploded leaving some businesses struggling to keep pace whilst others take full advantage of this revolutionary opportunity.
So the question remains; how can publishers and brands ensure they get their digital content strategy right amidst so much uncertainty and confusion?
We know that more content is consumed on mobile than any other platform yet many publishers are still afraid to experiment. We also know that over 90% of all mobile time is spent in apps but publisher app success stories are few and far between.
Disruption is an overused term in digital media but it perfectly describes what has been happening in publishing over the last decade. It’s also the reason that many publishers have failed to make a success of mobile publishing.
Disruption led to panic-buying early solutions tipped for widespread success, and now hesitation when it comes to choosing something that will deliver a strong reading experience to their audience.
A brief history of mobile publishing
Let’s take a quick look at the history of mobile publishing and a reminder of some of it’s significant events;
- Apple launched the iPhone (2007) – Starting the smartphone era
- Apple launched the iPad (2010) – Tipped to revolutionise publishing
- Publishers went for replica – Advertisers didn’t follow
- Mobile content consumption exploded
- The Apple Newsstand came and went
- Print revenues declined
- Distributed content channels proliferated
- Publishers lost out on revenue shares
- Apple News+ is launched (2019)
When the iPad launched back in 2010 It was predicted that everybody would read magazines on tablets, a gold rush followed for a period of time where 2 different types of apps emerged – neither proved widely successful.
Firstly we saw very complicated and over engineered apps with extensive ‘bells & whistles’ showing off what was possible regardless of whether it enhanced the reader experience or not. Never was this more evident than in the screens dedicated to ‘How to use this app’. No magazine ever needed to resort to a ‘How to read this magazine’ page!
At the other end of the market was a ‘cheap & cheerful’ (yet still expensive) PDF replica solution that provided a decent reading experience on tablet and preserved the look and feel of magazines that publishers invest significant resource in creating.
Neither of these took off because audiences and advertisers didn’t follow.
Eyeballs were shifting to mobile and these existing solutions did not work adequately on small screens.
Print for Profit – Digital for Growth
Whilst mobile content consumption continues to boom, one thing cannot be ignored.
For many publishers print still drives more revenue that anything else, even if this revenue is in decline. Despite this, most modern publishers know they need to experiment with mobile publishing in order to find a successful formula to protect their readership in the future and adequately cater for those who already want to consume content on mobile devices.
Squeezing a print workflow into a digital workflow sounds counter productive but in many cases it’s a necessity and as long as it results in a strong experience then it’s perfectly viable.
The most important thing is to understand where the content is coming from and where it needs to go. Content sources include; WordPress, InDesign and CMS whilst output channels are growing all the time and include; Apps, Web, Apple News, Facebook IA, Medium to name just a few. Finding tools that achieve this without the need for developers will ensure publishers print content can be discovered by mobile audiences everywhere.
When it comes to discoverability, Apple have thrown their hat back in the ring but they don’t have a great track record. Apple pulled the plug on Newsstand in 2015 and replaced it with Apple News and last month announced its brand new magazine service Apple News+.
Discoverability is very important and like social channels, Apple News+ is certainly a gateway to millions of potential new readers such is Apple’s reach but monetisation is equally important and to be successful you must be able to lead readers back to your owned channels where you deliver a strong reader experience.
Apple News+ magazines will be either non-mobile friendly PDF format, or need to be created in Apple News Format by publishers at their own cost, to distribute to a platform they don’t own, for only a share of the revenue. And publishers are already expressing concern.
Content for a multi-platform future
So can you actually protect yourself from disruption? And if so how do you go about it? Nobody can predict the future so we don’t know what ’next big thing’ the tech giants will launch and certainly don’t know what impact it will have.
Delivering strong reader experiences is about having 100% creative control of your content.
A powerful back-end CMS can be essential for storing data but often acts as a cookie cutter when handling content and delivering it to an output channel. A lightweight front-end CMS can integrate with your current systems, providing a developer free environment for your designers to create a fully responsive mobile experience your readers will love.
One thing businesses can do is ensure they have agile systems in place to adapt to shifts in business practices and workflows. Late last year we read a research piece from Publishing Executive that said Workflow tools were the number 1 purchase priority in 2018 for providing revenue growth, which prompted us to write a blog about it.
The link between efficiency and revenue is summed up beautifully in a comment from one respondent. “We need to enhance our options to improve revenue.”
Publisher’s content needs to be everywhere its audience is and fully optimised for that platform; Magazine, Web, App, Events, Podcasts. These channels need to be owned in order to be fully monetised whilst social channels (Instagram, Twitter), and distributed content channels (Apple News, Facebook IA, Medium) can be utilised for discoverability.
When focusing on creating content for these channels, don’t get locked into ecosystems, think agnostic. What can easily integrate with your existing systems that is also flexible when you decide to change what you’re doing to suit your business needs or adopt a new tech solution?
Canvasflow can certainly help achieve this. We believe in giving customers the flexibility to create from scratch or use existing content from any source, turn it into a fully responsive experience and deliver to any channel that their audience chooses to consume it. This agnostic approach puts customers in 100% creative control of their content, streamlining their workflows and ensuring they are ready for the next 10 years and beyond.