More and more publishers have a digital version of their magazines and if you are about to embark upon the digital road, there is a great deal to consider before you take the plunge.
Digital magazines can do a lot to boost a publisher’s presence, but there are many issues to keep in mind. The savvy circulation professional knows to look at both the positive and negative possibilities as a matter of course. The savvy circulation professional recognizes, for instance, that a 70 percent renewal response really equates to 30 percent of the file disappearing. The savvy circulation professional will recognize that you need to evaluate what kind of digital magazine will work for your market.
Digital magazines have one major advantage over print: you can adapt them to individual readers’ requirements. Print cannot do this easily, although it has been done for longer than you may think. The Economist, Time, and Newsweek as far back as the seventies used to change the pagination of most issues to reflect readership simply by moving sections of the magazine around.
In deciding what will work for your magazine, you have to look at what you have available. You also have to decide what you want to achieve by producing a digital version. Is it going to support the print product or branch out on its own? Is it going to replace the print product? Does the editorial department have the ability to be proactive in possibly producing “personal” content? What information can you access on your subscribers to make their digital experience worthwhile?
Answers to these questions will dictate the digital path you need to take. Digital magazines arguably have a disadvantage over print—and that is accessibility, ironically enough. You need something to read the magazine on, be it a tablet, phone, laptop or desktop. Some of these options are more portable than others, but the fact is that a print product just needs to be picked up and you are good to go. You need to make readers’ experience as memorable as possible otherwise renewal and requalification rates will start to fall and this is something we already know, certainly on controlled circulation as response rates differ vastly between print and digital.
At its simplest your digital magazine can just be a copy or replica of your print publication. Not only is this the simplest solution, it is also probably the cheapest—and the most boring. However, as noted above a digital strategy is a companywide thing, it relies on the abilities of production, editorial, advertising as well as circulation or audience development. You can split a digital edition out by geographic area, and this could be as broad as continent or as narrow as zip or post code. If you have demographics on your subscribers, you could gear your editorial according to those demographics. The more demographics or information you have, the more defined your digital magazine can be.
Next week we’ll discuss how far you can take your digital initiative and what you need to measure to see whether it is working—or not.