There’s been a lot of noise recently about going digital as a publisher, and to be quite honest it is something that is proving to be very fruitful. When articles are posted gloating at how many paying subscribers certain publishers now amass, it can be very difficult for other publishers to sit still and not contemplate following suit. But one of the most difficult decisions that publishers consider is when print still retains a profitable part of your business, how do you go about making the transition, and not losing that valuable revenue? In this blog we’ll explore the avenue that certain publishers have taken when being in this very situation, the pros and cons of moving into digital, and when making the jump, how to go about it successfully.
Part of the Bonnier Magazine Group, Bonnier Publications is at a crossroads, but it sits in a very peculiar position. The publisher still believe it or not still recoups most of their revenue from print magazine subscriptions. Bonnier has a very successful business strategy in place, and some may argue that they don’t necessarily need to move to digital, as they’re doing fine with the print revenues.
But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to expand and try new things. Bonnier’s strategy is a multi-platform approach. In an interview with Fipp, editor in chief and project manger of 4 titles belonging to Bonnier, Leif Jonasson stated, “We still publish mainly magazines. There are some apps and digital products but 90 per cent of our business is still print. The thing is: print is not only profitable; it is extremely profitable to us.” Bonnier have a market segment of customers that don’t seem to mind paying a large amount for their magazines. Jonasson further added that it’s a very strange position to be in, because if Bonnier were in a position where print wasn’t as fruitful, it would give them more of a reason to push further into a digital strategy.
Bonnier look at the position they’re in as an opportunity to build on the success that print has given them, rather than a necessity. It gives them a huge advantage, no pressure to succeed. As opposed to other publishers who see the subscription based model and focus on the website as the centralised point of focus, Bonnier see the website as a supplement. The website compliments their print publications, with a download code if they readers want to access it online. Another tactic that they employ is very similar to French publisher Mediapart. Similar to Mediapart, the Bonnier values their comments sections and forums. They embrace the fact and encourage their readers to have debates and engage with each other. And like Mediapart, the comments sections and forums are available for non-subscribers to see, however they cannot post their own questions.
What are the strategies to use when going digital?
Whilst Bonnier is one framework that inspires, with online content complimenting print, other publishers have focused mainly on digital and have reaped the benefits. The Times deployed an editions based strategy, which updates itself three times a day, bringing specialist content, quality reporting and analysis. They decided to veer away from breaking news, due to the speed of social media, it wasn’t a smart decision to keep updating it. Therefore, they identified their strengths, and focussed on them, in turn driving their subscriptions up 200% in the last year.
Another popular strategy is the NY Times. The NY Times is embracing technology with open arms. New and innovative methods that have never been seen before are at the forefront of their digital strategy. These include a daily podcast (aptly named The Daily), 360° video, virtual reality, and an interactive mobile app. Maybe it’s the millennial in me, but technology isn’t slowing down anytime soon, so why not adopt multiple vehicles to present breaking news?
The move from print to digital has been no picnic for many publishers but the overall decline in print has prompted a compulsory switch. Luckily for some publishers such as Bonnier the move has not been as problematic allowing a more stable transition. With the IoT being imminent, it could be very valuable to make the shift into digital, due to the amount of potential reach publishers could have. Publishers would then have to make the choice of choosing to charge their readers for content or not, and this again opens up a whole new avenue for them, explained here.