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Jeffrey S. Litvack

Digital Innovation in Publishing

Jeffrey S. Litvack emedia and Technology - 09/15/2014-10:18 AM

Established print media brands are facing unprecedented pressures to innovate and reinvent themselves; failure to do so may mean these institutions will become future HBS case studies (and not the good kind).

In real dollars terms, Newspapers are generating the same amount of advertising dollars as they did in 1950 (having lost more than $45B in print advertising). That's not to say they aren't innovating, in fact, they've created $5B in new revenue through digital advertising. But the need to innovate faster is a real necessity.

The challenge is how to innovate at the speed of the digital economy when our systems, employees and processes are all set-up for a print production cycle (think days, weeks or months). In my experience it begins with adopting a simple operating philosophy centered around one word -"iterate."

Whatever you do, don't try to come up with THE solution, but rather set up an iterative innovation around the notion of advancing the cause, rather than solving the big problem. Too often, I walk into a room where the team is discussing all the reasons why they shouldn't do something, rather than focusing on just doing it, breaking it down and managing through the next steps. My experience has shown me that if you want to move more quickly, the way to do so is through lots of smaller steps rather than trying something monumental.

Often, in product development, this begins by building a simple prototype of the idea. Nothing sophisticated or grandiose, just something visual that everyone can understand and latch on to and build upon.

AP Mobile started with this prototype approach. It began in a room of technology and business naysayers ("we tried mobile before and it failed"), and disbelievers ("the industry will never work together"). We "ignored" them and pressed on building a simple prototype of the product in a few weeks. We then flew out to Apple and demonstrated this prototype and left with developer keys in hand and a few months later the team was standing on stage with Steve Jobs introducing the first iPhone app for the news industry. A company that had never had a B2C presence, today, has tens of millions of subscribers getting breaking news directly through the AP Mobile app.

Innovation in publishing is hard to do and a constant uphill battle. But if your battle charge is "Iterate or Die", you'll find yourself winning battle after battle and eventually the tides of the war will change for the better.


Jeffrey S. Litvack

So Your CEO Says You Need to Be A “Digital First” Publisher? Part 6

Jeffrey S. Litvack B2B - 01/02/2014-10:45 AM


In earlier posts, I wrote about the value of having a mobile app for your brand, and briefly touched on the associated marketing and sales challenges. In this post, I’ll dig deeper into how to successfully launch an app and build an audience.

See Also: So Your CEO Says You Need to Be a "Digital First" Publisher? Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Unlike the Web, publishers cannot passively accumulate an app audience, but rather need to take a very active role in driving downloads. The adage, “If you build it they will come” doesn’t hold true for apps. The reason for this is that app stores are islands unto to themselves and the benefits of the open Web (i.e., people stumbling upon your app via search) aren’t available. Compounding this issue are App Store discoverability challenges, including:

• Limited Search Identifiers. Search in app stores is based on a limited number of key words that you select when you upload the app, rather than the metadata associated with the content/articles themselves. Google just started testing the ability to index and deep link into an app with the release of KitKat but the outcome is questionable, while Apple doesn’t even offer such capabilities.
• Too Many Apps per Category. The idea of a user browsing a category (say news) and finding your app is laughable because of the sheer number of apps in any category (i.e., 26,134 apps in the news category alone). Simply put, there are just too many apps for people to browse through. 

• Ranking Is a Chicken and Egg Problem. An app’s rank in a store (both for search and by category) is generally dependent upon its rating, but without any downloads the app starts at the bottom of the list. As such, the act of putting an app in an app store doesn’t guarantee any downloads.

Given these discoverability issues, when launching an app you need to have a well-thought out marketing plan. The good news is that as media companies we have a certain advantage over others in that we have media channels available to us that we can leverage to drive app downloads. These “free” channels include running print ads, email ads, online ads and mobile Web ads in publications we control. To drive the most downloads, your media plan should include all of these free channels as well as paid placements on competitor sites/apps (if you’ve got some extra marketing dollars lying around). Three tips to keep in mind are:

• Calls-to-Action on Mobile Devices Work Best. In my experience, the most effective tool in driving downloads is to pop-up a “download now ad” when the user goes to your mobile website. The messaging in these “ads” simply ask the user if she’d rather view the content via your app or via the mobile website. This is not so much a marketing exercise, but rather a product development exercise.

• Print Ads Require Short-Codes. If you are going to use offline (e.g., print) ads to drive downloads be sure to use a “redirecting” short-code that’s easy to use and remember (e.g.,, rather than the full appstore URL.

• Make Money From the “Download Ads”. If you’re smart about leveraging the marketing channels you already own and have a good sales team you can also turn a “download ad” into revenue by packaging it with a sponsorship opportunity. This has been a tried-and-true approach for us at ALM where we’ve sold compelling sponsorship packages to advertisers that combine offline and online channels. These ads typically say something like “Download the new XZY app brought to by ABC” with the sponsor’s brand effectively incorporated into the ad.

To sum things up, driving downloads takes time and effort.  With hundreds of thousands of apps out there, building an audience is as much a function of your marketing efforts, as it is the value of the underlying app.

Jeffrey S. Litvack

3 Tips for Cost-Effective App Production

Jeffrey S. Litvack emedia and Technology - 11/04/2013-12:47 PM


When selecting content delivery channels, a digital-first publisher can’t ignore the mobile app. Today’s digital-savvy readers expect a market leading publication to have a mobile app. Moreover, advertisers expect to be able reach the most loyal subscribers via the publisher’s app.

This said, as mentioned in an earlier post, the ROI on a mobile app should be carefully evaluated. The key challenges with apps are discoverability and the higher expenses related to building and maintaining the app. While apps are generally superior reading experiences for subscribers, app discoverability is difficult due to the sheer size, fragmentation, and limited search functionality of app stores. As a result, launching a new publication app today requires significant marketing expense to grow an audience. Similarly, building and maintaining an app can be quite expensive, and native apps by definition are not cross-platform solutions, so you’ll need to build separate apps for each operating system that you want to support (iOS, Android, Windows 8, etc.).

Assuming that you are committed to building an app, here are some suggestions on how to keep costs down: 

Third-Party Provider

First, consider working with a third-party mobile platform provider that is willing to build and host a mobile app for you on a revenue share basis. These platform vendors typically have template solutions that you can leverage to get to market quickly for little cost. Their offerings normally include the key features that you’ll want already built in (e.g., push notifications, sharing functionality, and rich-media advertising). Additionally, these providers will ensure that your apps continually work even on the latest operating system releases, leveraging their scale to quickly update their platform and app environment. The main downside of these solution providers is that their templates may limit your creativity. Additionally, supporting a different CMS can create editorial challenges.

The 'Native Wrapper'

Another approach to building an app in a cost-effective way would be to consider rebuilding your website in HTML5 and then placing it in a “native wrapper” rather than building a pure native app. Some consider this approach the equivalent of “having your cake and eating it too.” Three key benefits of HTML5 are that it is operating system agnostic (e.g., code works for Android and iOS), it offers offline reading capabilities, and, depending upon how it is architected, you can make updates without app releases. HTML5 code in a native wrapper allows you to access native features such as push notifications, in-app purchasing, and native sharing capabilities. You could also consider building this “app” using a responsive/native HTML5 design which could reduce future development costs. That said, I would caution that this approach is not necessarily the panacea some purport it to be in that it’s challenging to build an HTML5 mobile site and there are a lot of nuances that will require an experienced programmer (which are hard to come by). If it’s done wrong, users will see a degradation of app experience in terms of speed and functionality.
Pick One OS

The third cost-effective approach would be to build a native app for only one operating system (e.g., iOS) using your CMS and internal platforms. The value of this approach will depend upon both the concentration of your user base (i.e. is the majority of your readers using one platform over another) and your access to skilled developers, either in-house or contracted).

In the next article, I’ll address some best-in-class approaches to driving app revenue as well as provide some stats on ALM’s app performance.



Jeffrey S. Litvack

So Your CEO Says You Need to Be A “Digital First” Publisher? | Part Five

Jeffrey S. Litvack B2B - 09/26/2013-15:06 PM


In my last post, I laid out the importance of the mobile web to publishers and dove into two strategic and operational mobile questions that CDOs need to address. In this post, I’ll pick up where I left off, and address three additional questions:

• Which devices should you support?
• What content should be available on the site?
• What’s your mobile revenue model?

Which Devices Should You Support?

The first step in deciding which devices to support is to review your mobile data from Omniture or Google Analytics. During this process you should evaluate both the devices that are most in use today and their relative growth over the past six months. Consider breaking this information down into the following categories:

• Smartphones vs. Feature Phones
• Tablet Devices vs. Smartphones
• Operating Systems (i.e., Android, iOS, etc.)
• Operating System versions (i.e., 6.0, 6.1, 7.0)
• Browser (this is an upcoming category as more users choose to use a browser other than their default mobile browser)

Once you have the data, I suggest focusing your design and development capital by applying the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. At ALM, for instance, when we embarked on the creation of our mobile strategy, we found that 15 percent of our visitors were already accessing ALM content on mobile devices. Of that 15 percent, 80 percent were on Apple devices and more than 90 percent were on smartphones. Equally as important, we identified Tablets as the “next” platform for growth

Less than four months after launch, we’ve leveraged our understanding of our audience’s mobile inclinations to grow overall mobile traffic from 15 percent to almost 25 percent of our user base. We’ve seen tablet usage increase by 7 percent. We accomplished this by investing in a more iOS centric look and feel, launching a tablet-optimized site (not just a smartphone version) and by ensuring backwards compatibility to earlier iOS operating systems.

What Content Should Be Available on the Mobile Website?

Smartphones: When you’re considering what content to include on your smartphone-compatible website, your biggest consideration (and your biggest challenge) is screen size. How do you fit all your web content onto such a small screen? The answer is: You don’t. Instead, focus on understanding what content do your users read “on the go” and make that content available to them. In this process, remember that mobile readers snack on content, often taking it in little bites, because they’re usually looking to either solve a simple problem or to fill in free time (e.g., in the elevator). So, you want content that’s to-the-point, easily consumed, and easily read no matter the size of the screen. Everything else should be excluded from your mobile website.

While tailoring your mobile site to meet these standards might feel like a recipe for denying your readers needed content, it’s actually a great opportunity for both the product team and editorial to rethink their content strategy. Over the past few years, an everything-in-the-kitchen sink approach to posting web content has prevailed. Customizing a mobile site permits you to refine your content and your overall message about what your site really means to each reader. And, if you’re really still concerned about readers missing out on content that they want, a simple solution is to add a link to your online site at the bottom of your mobile webpage, thereby providing the user with the best of both worlds.

Tablets: While most publishers today are repurposing the same content across all devices, content for tablets probably shouldn’t be the same as that for smartphones due to different use cases (“on the go” vs. “on the couch”), but I’ll have to hold off on this for a future post. Assuming you are going to repurpose, here’s the most important thing to remember—pay attention to inoperability issues with tablets. Two important differences to consider: (a) Flash won’t work on many devices, and all those great infographics may not display properly and (b) Navigating by your finger is different than navigating by a mouse and inherently changes the user’s experience with certain content pieces.

A Reminder: While your primary focus will likely be on repurposing your editorial content, you also must define your non-editorial content for smartphones and tablets, including advertising and classifieds. For many readers, those print ads were valuable content in and of themselves. You should be sure to integrate them thoughtfully into the mobile experience. Also keep in mind the sales challenges of having a separate mobile site:  For example, do you need to have one-to-one parity between ad units online and mobile web ad units?

What’s Your Revenue Model?

While this is theoretically a straight-forward question, many people invest in the mobile web without understanding the ROI or how it fits in with their overall strategy. Generally, the mobile web should be an extension of your online and print business models. This means that you’ll need to incorporate access control parameters at launch, and align print and digital ad operations and sales.

Here’s a breakdown of some issues to take into consideration as you develop your strategy:

Mobile Advertising: Marketing dollars allocated to mobile ads are increasing exponentially and represent a huge opportunity for companies. For instance, Facebook is realigning its entire business to capture the growing mobile audience and mobile revenue. However, as publishers, we need to remember that mobile ads have the lowest CPMs around (hopefully you’ve heard the adage “print dollars, to online dimes, to mobile pennies”). This is compounded by the reality that there is typically only one ad per mobile page versus 4 -6 ads per page online. Add to this the fact that new creative is needed for mobile and it’s not worth it for many b-to-b advertisers to boil down their messages into a 320x50 actionable ad unit. Now we’ve got ourselves a real business challenge. As a result, I would suggest that you be realistic when projecting your ROI and give the market time to adjust to the new realities and opportunities. This is going to be a big opportunity, it just is going to take more time to develop.

Subscriptions: Most publishers will extend their online subscriptions to mobile devices at no additional charge. The only real challenge in doing so is to be sure to redesign the sign-on and subscriptions screens so that they are optimized for smartphone and touch-screen devices. Forcing users to tap and zoom to enter a password and not keeping them automatically signed in are user behaviors you want to avoid.


In short, mobile web is the next big opportunity for publishers. More users are reading content on mobile devices each day, and as a result, more advertising dollars are flowing to mobile web daily. That said, getting to a great mobile web experience requires significant time, energy, and investment from across your organization.



Jeffrey S. Litvack

So Your CEO Says You Need to Be A “Digital First” Publisher? | Part Four

Jeffrey S. Litvack emedia and Technology - 09/05/2013-16:01 PM

If you've been following this running series, you'll recall that the last post focused on leveraging the editorial e-newsletter to drive audience growth. Since adopting this strategy at ALM, the e-newsletter has become the No. 1 driver of traffic to ALM's sites (yes, ahead of even search).

Driving this growth is a fundamental shift in our subscribers' reading habits-specifically, a move to mobile-first viewing. Click-throughs on our mobile optimized e-newsletters are up a whopping 120 percent in the past 3 months. We are seeing mobile devices replacing the desktop as the first place our readers connect with us.

Today, smartphones are ubiquitous parts of our lives. A recent study completed by Harris Interactive found that 72 percent of people reported being within 5 feet of their smartphone at all times, 55 percent admitted to using a phone while driving, and believe it or not, 9 percent admitted to using it during sex. Equally as important, in 2013, average time spent on a mobile device (non-talk) outpaced that of online, for the first time ever.

Based on these changes, if you don't already have a mobile Web strategy, you'd better get one quickly because your users are already there.

In approaching the mobile Web, I recommend that you consider the following five key questions:

• Who should develop your mobile site-internal staff or should it be outsourced?
• How should the site be built-as a responsive site or as a stand-alone?
• Which devices should you support?
• What content should be available on the site?
• And most importantly, what's your mobile revenue model?

I will cover the first of these two of these questions in this article and the remainder in a later posting. I will also cover mobile app strategy in a later post.

In-house vs. Outsource

The first question to answer is who should develop your mobile website. Here you need to consider the following elements:

• Does your development team have mobile experience and coding skills? Keep in mind which skills you'll need: Are you building a responsive site? Are you building a site in HTML5? Are you looking to incorporate any unique advertising/sponsorship opportunities/code. On the other hand, if you outsource, do you have flexibility in the look and feel of your site, or are you stuck with choosing from just a few templates?

• Are you willing to have multiple CMS systems: one for mobile and one for desktops/laptops? This can have a lot of implications for your editorial workflow as well as your mobile content offering. At ALM, we chose a FIFO (first-in-first-out) model based on feeds from our CMS to an outsourced provider in order to get to market quickly, but there have been some serious tradeoffs with this approach. We continue to work closely with our mobile partner to improve the reading experience.

• What's your time to market? The sooner you want to launch, the more likely you'll want to use a mobile-focused platform provider who has a turnkey solution already in place. Depending upon who your partner is, as well as your need for more or less customization, you could be up and running within as little as four weeks.

• What's your capital budget and risk propensity? Another good reason to consider a mobile platform provider is if you don't have the upfront capital dollars to invest in a mobile site. Many mobile platform providers will partner with you on a revenue share basis. Two off the top of my head are Verve Mobile and Polar (albeit, I'm not specifically endorsing either in this post). An additional advantage of these platform providers is that they have integrated ad serving platforms and mobile ad networks in their operations, which will help your monetization model from Day One and lower investment risk.

• Do you want your apps and mobile website to be under the same CMS and managed by the same team? Here you need to be even more thoughtful in your overall strategy. If you plan on creating mobile apps one day, you should consider the challenges and benefits between outsourcing vs. insourcing.

Responsive Design?

Responsive design is all the rage right now, using one code base to deliver experiences across multiple screens (from smartphones to tablets to desktops). But is it the solution that ails all digital woes? In my humble view, responsive design, has a place in your digital strategy, but it's not the ultimate solution.

The main advantage of responsive design is that it lowers site maintenance costs. Maintaining just one code base ensures that each new update and/or change will be "automatically" replicated across all platforms. Additionally, responsive design makes ad management easier as every ad on your website will also have a place on smartphones and tablets.

The main disadvantage to responsive design is that it creates what I like to call "the endless scroll" on smaller screen devices (i.e., smartphones); the page seems to just go on and on forever. This is especially problematic for sites that have a lot of content.

My personal view is that using a combination of responsive and native design lead to best-in-class reading experiences at the lowest cost. More specifically, use responsive design for online and tablets, and then create a separate native experience for smartphones.

In my next update, I'll address the three remaining elements of a mobile Web strategy: which devices you should support; what content should be available on the site(s); and how to drive to a positive ROI.

Jeffrey S. Litvack

So Your CEO Says You Need to Be A “Digital First” Publisher? | Part Three

Jeffrey S. Litvack emedia and Technology - 07/11/2013-14:05 PM

In prior postings, I laid out a high-level framework for turning your company into a digital first publisher. Now, I'll discuss one of the key drivers of digital success in more detail: the editorial e-newsletter.

Email is the number one way in which people sample content; at ALM, we've learned that the e-newsletter is in many ways the product. This is where most subscribers first experience and interact with our brand. If their email experience is bad, we've lost that reader, they will never click-through to our site to read our content. This makes intuitive sense.

With our printed magazine, we take the time to ensure that the cover is outstanding: It has a great photo, a beautiful layout and engaging calls to action, so that subscribers don't trash it with junk mail and are drawn to open it up and read it. Now, we put that same level of thought and effort into our e-newsletters.

So, where did we start? The first step was to evaluate whether we had the right e-newsletter platform partner, because technology is a big driver of the digital experience.

At ALM we identified five key attributes that we require from our e-newsletter platform:

• White-Listed Provider
• Mobile optimization options
• Personalization tools
• Excellent tracking and metrics
• A/B testing

I'd like to highlight the two that have been critical in our success to date (that's two months since launch) - having a white-listed provider and having mobile optimization options. These two are the most crucial components of ensuring that your e-newsletter is delivered and readable. In later posts, I'll talk about how you can use the other three categories to create a highly personalized, relevant e-newsletter for each of your readers, once they're receiving the emails.

White-Listed Provider

What is a white-listed provider? It's a trusted mail carrier. This means that e-newsletter platforms, like USPS or FedEx, have technical reputations, and you want to use a provider that is white-listed by all the major ISPs. Think of it like being on the VIP list at the club. You want to be the guy who can slip right in, not have to wait outside in the line and hope you get in.

If you use a white-listed provider, you are working with a company who is recognized for sending trustworthy emails. This means that when Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and other email platforms see email coming from these providers, they trust it. Their servers look at the IP address(es) that your emails are coming from and examine whether they are on the white list. Since your IPs are white-listed, you give yourself the best possible opportunity to get that newsletter into the inbox. By contrast, if you use a non-white-listed provider, your emails will get through if you're lucky, but more likely than not, they'll end up in a junk folder or they'll bounce.

Our hard bounce rate is 0.5 percent (a typical media bounce rate is about 0.7 percent). We've been able to get it down below the average because our provider's IPs are widely trusted by email servers. This might seem like a tiny difference, but every email that goes through counts tremendously.

Mobile Optimization Options

Once you've ensured that your e-newsletters aren't bouncing, you have to make sure that people can read them. In this day and age, the most important way to make sure that an end-user can access an e-newsletter is to create a mobile-optimized version of every email you send.

The cost of not making e-newsletters easy to access on a smartphone is high and rising. According to Bluehornet's recent survey of more than 2,000 Americans, 80 percent of users will delete an email if it is not optimized for their mobile device, up from 70 percent in 2012. Equally as important, the number of people who will unsubscribe from that non-optimized mobile e-newsletter has nearly doubled in the last year (from 18 percent to 30.2 percent). With more than 36 percent of readers opening emails on their smartphones, having a mobile optimized email is not a nice-to-have-it is a must-have.

In thinking about the presentation on a mobile optimized device, YesMail identified three important factors that should be considered (and from our reader reactions, we concur):

• The highest area of consumer frustration with mobile marketing emails is too much scrolling (42 percent)
• 29 percent say that the layout of messages is wrong for their mobile device
• 27 percent state there is too much content

Not all providers give you the option to create a mobile-optimized version. In vetting any provider you should ask both access their technology capabilities in providing optimized versions and also ask to see sample versions being run by similar companies.

One important caveat, a mobile optimized e-newsletter should be accompanied with a mobile optimized site-there is nothing more frustrating to the reader than going from an optimized experience to a slow-loading, hard-to-read, flash-loaded (i.e., doesn't work on iPhones) made-for-desktop website.

Our Results

Focusing on just these two concerns over the past two months has yielded incredible results for ALM. Since switching to the Sailthru email platform, a mere three months ago, we've seen the following results:

• Over the past two months, page views driven by e-newsletters are up 33 percent.
• Since we launched our e-newsletters as mobile optimized versions we have seen the click-thru traffic from mobile devices rise by an astonishing 72 percent.
• On a monthly basis, visits driven by e-newsletters are up 58 percent month-over-month with e-newsletters now responsible for referring nearly 30 percent of all traffic to our sites.

In coming articles, I will further elaborate on the remaining framework structural drivers, as well as provide focus on the ins and outs of personalizing email and performing A/B testing for e-newsletters.

Jeffrey S. Litvack

So Your CEO Says You Need to Be A “Digital First” Publisher? | Part Two

Jeffrey S. Litvack B2B - 06/20/2013-14:25 PM


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.


Jeffrey S. Litvack

So Your CEO Says You Need to Be A “Digital First” Publisher? | Part 1

Jeffrey S. Litvack B2B - 05/29/2013-16:36 PM


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.