Most printers today realize that in order to remain competitive, they must offer some type of digital distribution. “Digital delivery is definitely growing,” says Andy Moore, product manager at Sheridan Magazine Services. “Interactivity is becoming a lot more interesting, and the social networking—where people can comment on the content, link to content, and share it with the publisher—is where I think digital editions really shine. So our customers are asking for it, and we want to offer a full suite of services.”

Sheridan offers publishers two digital opportunities. Magazine Messenger involves the push delivery of a PDF version of the magazine directly to subscribers who download special software. “Like most digital editions, it’s a replica of the print version with active URLs, page navigation, zoom, tracking, and other features,” says Moore. “It’s a cost-effective way for publishers to distribute their digital magazines without having to worry about spam filters.”

Sheridan’s other digital offering is Web-based distribution through a partnership with Nxtbook Media. The subscriber accesses the digital edition by clicking on an e-mail link or logging directly onto the publisher’s Web site.

It makes sense for printers to get involved in digital delivery, adds Debbie Glasscock, director of eOpportunity at Publishers Press, because of the existing customer relationship—the rapport, the trust, and the sense of partnership—and because the printer utilizes (and may expand or customize) the same files for a digital version that it’s using to put in print.

Publishers Press is a shorter-run printer that caters mostly to smaller publishers that may not have the resources to create an entire online business model. “We produce digital editions for about 171 different magazines, both b-to-b and consumer,” says Glasscock.

But they’re really more than just digital editions. Publishers Press has created technology that’s flexible enough for publishers to use it to create a Web site around their digital magazines. When readers click on a magazine link, they find a home page, the current issue, the previous issue, and perhaps a subscription page that links back to the publisher’s site.

At this point, Publishers Press only markets digital products to current print customers as an extension of services, though that could change. The products and their pricing have proven competitive in the marketplace—a one-time set-up fee and a monthly hosting fee—so the printer is considering offering digital-only services to new customers.

“A lot of printers have partnerships with a digital provider,” says Glasscock, “but we believe we’re one of the few printers that has brought it all in house. And we’ve done that because we really want to be able to control the applications that we create. We want to help our customers build an innovative and integrated solution to complement their print magazines.”