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Digital first: what does it mean for the magazine publisher

Team PaperLit

Traditional magazine publishing is characterized by a print-first workflow. 

With technological advances, there has been an increasing demand to produce and distribute magazines digitally. This new way of disseminating information is what digital first is all about.

In as much as both the online and print versions of newspapers are the main sources of information, studies indicate that as of August 2017, 43% of Americans were getting news from online sources. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets means that more people are consuming information on mobile devices.


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With most readers shifting to online sources for news, the challenge is on you to rethink your publishing strategies. Printing houses are aware that the era of online journalism is here. As a traditional magazine publisher, should you feel threatened by the digital revolution? This is the main question that lingers.

How Digital-First Journalism Works

According to a report published on the MIT Technology Review, the growth of Internet-based publishing should not be exclusively attributed to the technological revolution. Readers have driven this revolution since they also want print magazines just as much as they want to read content online. Most readers want content that incorporates audio, photos, videos, text, and infographics. Obviously, traditional magazines cannot offer this. Readers also prefer receiving similar content via multiple platforms including email and social media. To them, timing across different platforms matters least.

The advancement of Internet-based platforms is what has made online journalism a possibility. In this case, you publish content meant for platforms such as news websites, social media, online newsletters, email alerts and, of course, digital magazines. Online journalism is similar to traditional journalism since both incorporate the production of content through research. The difference between the two arises at the publishing stage. In digital-first journalism, the produced content is posted online whereas, in traditional journalism, the content gets published on paper.

Research indicates that newspapers have a shrinking audience and therefore, you need to embrace a digital-first mindset. To create an online magazine, ensure that your branding has a contemporary feel to it. Create an online brand by default and thereafter, retrofit when necessary for print. You must also understand that the mobile market is crucial nowadays and therefore, your content needs to be mobile-friendly.

Is the Position of a Magazine Publisher Under Threat?

The growing popularity of digital-first technologies in the field of journalism has led to concerns that the publishing industry is on its deathbed. These are unfounded fears since the publishing industry is only undergoing a technological revolution. As a magazine publisher, you need to see this as an opportunity to create web content that is not only captivating but also suits the references of an increasingly tech-savvy audience.

Digital first means that the Internet drives all decisions including how news gets covered, when, in what form, and by whom. In this setup, you are obligated to share information with the public as soon as you know it since the hottest topics trend more and are likely to appeal to audiences as soon as they come out. This is unlike in traditional magazine publishing whereby you must wait until the next publication to share news.

Needless to say, the digital first revolution has retuned the relationship that publishers had with the audience. As a magazine publisher, web-based journalism dictates that you are more of an open news source for informing the public what it needs to know, and less of a news producer. In today’s digitalized world, it is only sensible that publishers adopt a web-based strategy.

Why You Should Consider a Digital-First Approach

The overall reader experience is what will define the success of your Internet magazine. With most people sourcing for news online, you need to digitize your processes to tap into this growing market. Digital offers you limitless opportunities for transforming readers’ experiences. It has also created new business opportunities especially when it comes to advertising.

In online-based publishing, you benefit from a real-time feedback loop. This makes it easier to improve your services. Digital-first similarly gives you an opportunity to experiment with cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence in a bid to gain deeper market insights that guarantee your progress. This is never the case when it comes to traditional magazine publishing.

That we are experiencing the holy grail of technological revolution is no longer a secret. Magazine publishers ought to shift their attention from the traditional printing press and incorporate a digital-first approach to their work.