Last month, I introduced the challenge facing executives in the publishing industry: What should you do when your CEO challenges you to get a digital strategy quickly and turn your company into a “digital first” publisher? I laid out a suggested framework consisting of five key areas and then offered an overview of the first two:

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 last three channels.

Mobile & Tablet Apps

The world has gone app crazy. However, I’d advise you to first ponder the question of whether you actually need an app. Can you, like the Financial Times, effectively reach and build a large readership using just the mobile web? For those who are still pondering the question, here are some helpful rules of thumb.

In general, the average reader of an app comes back more frequently and looks at more pages per session than that of a mobile website. Apps ultimately are for your most loyal readers. After all, think about what an app is: It’s a piece of your reader’s smartphone real estate, available to launch at the touch of an icon. Apps have lower reach in general than the mobile web, but higher frequency of use and deeper levels of engagement.

The disadvantage of not having an app is that you are not highlighted in the app stores, which means you are missing out on a prime marketing opportunity. As they say with the Lotto—you’ve got to be in it, to win it. Apps can be expensive to build and maintain, but also provide a number of additional benefits that can’t be realized with the mobile web. For most b-to-b magazines and newspapers, the primary benefits will be:  (a) push notification, (b) inclusion in the Apple Newsstand/Play Magazine store, (c) offline reading, (d) faster page loads, (e) direct integration into social elements of phone like email, Facebook, Twitter, and (f) more real estate per screen to show content.

Digital Editions

It has been said that print dollars are being replaced by digital dimes and mobile pennies. In fact for 2012, the ratio was about 15 print dollars lost for every digital dollar gained—even worse than the 10 to 1 ratio in 2011. This is where digital editions can be powerful.

Digital editions can provide a way to extend the life of the print business model, while also providing a great on-the-go reading experience for subscribers. Ultimately, digital editions are “replicas” of the printed version, and have a beginning and an end. For the reader they provide an experience of completion that you cannot feel with the web or with “news reader” apps. For advertisers, the digital edition counts toward the paid/verified circulation figure, and with the average person spending up to 43 minutes per session with a digital edition, publishers are providing an experience that the advertiser can understand and relate to.

In general digital editions are fetching similar CPMs to print, and in some cases getting even more than print as you can turn that flat ad into an interactive experience. Digital editions are the win-win-win for publishers, advertisers and readers/subscribers, but they do take time, effort and dollars to produce like their print counterparts.


Email is still the number-one way in which people sample content. If you don’t have a sophisticated email strategy get one right away. Along with social and search it is typically one of the top three ways in which readers connect with your brand and access your content. Newsletters are unique because they are pushed out to readers each day and sit in their inbox just waiting to be opened. They are a constant reminder of your brand and are one of the few push technologies available that are still very effective in getting users to take action.

So your CEO comes to you and tells you he/she wants turn the company into a “digital-first” publisher. It’s not easy, but it can be done. In the course of the next few articles in this series I’ll dig into each of these five channels and provide some case studies and results that I’ve seen work across the B-to-B and publishing space. Stay tuned.