Most print publishers want to expand their businesses online. Some already have websites, whilst many others plan on launching them soon.
However, to be successful, traditional publishers must understand the differences between the two mediums.
Most believe they do, but if you look at what many of them are doing online, they clearly don't. They end up trying to replicate what they do offline on the internet.
This doesn't work. Never has. Never will.
Online publishing is very different from print. Those who understand the differences and structure their activities accordingly will thrive. Those who don't will fail.
Here is a checklist of the most important differences.
- Online publishing strips out many of the costs associated with print publishing (typesetting/DTP, printing, paper, postage, and fulfilment). Because of this, online publications become viable with far fewer subscribers than offline publications. This makes the start-up process cheap, quick and easy.
- The cost of delivery on the internet continues to fall as storage, hosting and bandwidth get cheaper. Distribution in the offline world continues to rise as paper costs, overhead and postage continue to increase.
- All content can be archived in a searchable database, which can be accessed at anytime by members. This is a superb and valuable resource for subscribers that builds loyalty and repeat visits.
- With online publishing, news and information are provided in real time. In a world of rapid change and instant gratification, the information sources that react quickest to events will become the most popular. Print cannot compete with the speed of online publishing.
- While online, members can interact with each other through discussion groups, forums, online seminars and classified ads. This turns passive readers into contributors and community members. Print publications have no way of enabling real-time interaction.
- Content can be provided in audio or video format. Amongst the digital generation, there is an expectation that they can consume their content in many different formats. The web makes publishing multimedia content simple and cheap.
- A specialist website can cost-effectively reach a worldwide audience. This can make niche subjects commercially viable. For a print publication, going global has significant cost implications.
- Online publishing implies excellent customer intelligence. It is possible to see what every visitor has looked at on a website, giving you the ability to track which articles are most popular and create new content based on what you know your visitors are reading. With a print publication, the editor has no idea which articles and what content are being read.
- On the internet, a lot of the marketing is free. A good website will automatically be indexed by the search engines and drive qualified traffic. New subscribers can be acquired for zero marketing spend.
- On the web, new offers, pricing plans and incentives can be quickly and easily tested and the results presented in real time.
- Most of the administration processes can be fully automated. Sign-ups, renewals, credit card processing and member database management can all be handled via a website with minimal human intervention.
- In a world of instant gratification, online publications deliver deep and rich content to new members within minutes of signing up. This content is available to them 24 hour a day, 7 days a week, with new articles continually being added.
- Free gifts, such as eBooks, can be digitally delivered as incentives for new customers to sign up and for keeping old customers loyal. This can be done at zero cost.
- It is possible to launch an entirely new online publication in less than 30 days. In the traditional print world, it can take many months of planning and preparation to get a publication to the point of launch.
- A website is always on and available 24 hours a day. There are no publication date restrictions on access.
- Printable newsletters can be sent digitally by email in a format ready for printing so that people who prefer to read from paper can still do so.
Within the next five years, online publishing will do to offline publishing what email has done to traditional mail, and what online music downloads have done to the CD industry. It is not a matter of ‘if', it is simply a matter of ‘when'.
The internet now presents both the biggest threat and the biggest opportunity that the magazine and newsletter industries have ever faced. Publishers who embrace the opportunity will be able to use their knowledge, resources and skills to expand faster than they ever imagined possible.
Those resisting change will wither and die.