Being a “digital first” publisher is quickly becoming the new standard. Readership is shifting from print to digital devices and the number of devices that your readers are using is growing at a phenomenal rate. According to a recent study by the NPD Group, U.S. homes have more than half a billion devices connected to the Internet.

Even more shocking is that the number of connected devices per house (currently at 5.7) is more than double the average number of people per household. In only a few years publishers have gone from serving an exclusively print and online audience, to now having to reach readers who don’t even own a computer and certainly don’t tote around printed magazines and newspapers.

So what should you do when your CEO challenges you to get a digital strategy quickly, and turn into a “digital first” publisher? Where do you begin? How do you determine what will have the highest return and the quickest impact? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, but before you hit the panic button, let me give you a framework that can help.

To ensure you are not missing anything, consider these five key areas:

Five Key Channels to a Successful Digital Strategy

  • Online Presence
  • Mobile & Tablet Optimized Websites
  • Mobile & Tablet Native Apps
  • Digital Editions
  • Newsletters

This month, I’d like to provide a high-level explanation of the first two channels, and next month I’ll walk through the remaining three.

Online Presence

By far your largest reach and largest audience will be your online audience. You’ve probably been building up this audience over the last decade and with almost 80 percent of the U.S. population online; this should be the foundation for any strategy.

Ensuring that your online sites are best in class—from load times to layouts and user experiences, to social and SEO elements—is a critical place to start. It came as a surprise to me that many b-to-b publishers haven’t overhauled their online presence in many years, even as their online readership has grown, and their readers have become more sophisticated users and have come to rely on this medium as primary way of interacting with your brand.

Mobile & Tablet Optimized Websites

It’s been just six years since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, and in that short time mobile Web traffic has grown exponentially. Today, one out of every six Web pages is viewed on a mobile device (Adobe Study 2013).  In the last year alone, mobile traffic as a percentage of total website traffic nearly doubled from 10 percent to 18 percent from Q4 2011 to Q4 2012. This trend is only going to accelerate with today’s smartphones having the same computing power as the top-of-the line desktops in 2005, and smartphone shipments eclipsing that of desktops and laptops.

It seems like everywhere you look someone is pulling out a smartphone, but the one thing they are not doing a lot of anymore is talking on the phones.  The vast majority of the estimated 130 million smartphones roaming U.S. streets are spending their time accessing content and information—the Online Publishers Association found that 93 percent of smartphone users are accessing content/information. Ignoring the smartphone user is no longer an option.  Publishers need to get on the mobile bandwagon quickly and ensure that they have an optimized viewing experience for these smaller screens.

It’s not just smartphones, it’s also increasingly becoming a tablet or touchscreen world. Adobe analyzed more than 1 billion visits to more than 1,000 websites and found that 9 percent of the traffic came from tablets. That ranks ahead of the 7 percent of visits that came from smartphones, and tablet penetration is a fraction of smartphone penetration. In the coming years mobile Web traffic will eclipse online traffic, and publishers need to move quickly to form a deep relationship with this growing audience.