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Digital editions: 5 minutes with… Paul DeHart

In a world where people are drowning in content, much of it of dubious quality, digital editions from credible publishers can cut-through the noise. We grab five minutes with BlueToad’s Paul DeHart to talk about the latest trends in digital editions.

By Paul DeHart

Digital editions: 5 minutes with… Paul DeHart

Q: What exciting things are publishers of digital editions doing?

A: Publishers we work with are continuing to focus on prioritising and improving the mobile reading experience. We are also seeing more publishers taking advantage of the podcast movement by providing audio versions of their content to readers. This is now easier than ever to accomplish given recent advancements in text-to-speech technology. Another growing area of interest is making sure content is accessible to disabled readers in compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Q: What trends are you noticing in terms of how people use and access digital editions?

A: For the same reason that readers are coming back to meaningful print experiences, readers are showing they value curated and packaged digital content experiences from the brands they trust. This unique content experience can serve as an important cue to readers that they are engaging with a credible source. Ultimately, traditional publishers must continue to distinguish themselves from the undifferentiated sea of content being published online. The digital edition is one way to capture some of these important elements of the print experience that readers still want.

Q: In terms of improving monetisation of digital editions, what advice would you give publishers?

A: Publishers need to understand that providing a solid, device-appropriate reading experience is fundamental in building and growing their reader base. This has inherent value and is the first step to creating additional monetisation opportunities. They should then look at ways they can monetise their content while at the same time provide value to their readers. One interesting strategy is to provide separate sponsored content channels alongside your digital edition content. These can serve as a valuable resource for your readers, while giving your advertisers a unique way to get in front of new customers. Examples of this could include ‘How To’ or ‘Ask the Expert’ content channels created entirely by sponsors.

Q: What are the key considerations publishers should think about when trying to improve the functionality and usability of their digital editions?

A: Where possible, publishers should try to stick with simple and clean content experiences, making it easier to responsively deliver content across multiple devices and platforms. A simpler format also helps if you decide to feed your content to newsstand or aggregator applications or to make it accessible to disabled readers pursuant to WCAG. Some tips include keeping images in a carousel at the top, using standard web fonts, minimising article formatting, and, of course, sensibly incorporating ads. Readers want a quick and easy reading experience that efficiently conveys content – not a cluttered or over-engineered animation that favours style over substance.

Q: Do you have any top tips on increasing open rates and improving dwell times?

A: My number one tip is to deliver content appropriately. If your content doesn’t load quickly and in the right format, open rates and dwell times will suffer. Once competent delivery is accomplished, we suggest focusing on one or all of the following:

  1. Offering unique, digital-only content through your digital edition.
  2. Incorporating your other content initiatives (like integrating your YouTube channel) to keep readers engaged longer in the digital edition experience.
  3. Using email newsletters to grow and increase engagement.

You don’t have to make it complicated to be successful. Finally, promotion is very important. Make sure your readers know what you offer in digital and why it has value. Is it simply searchability or archive access? Maybe it is a great mobile experience delivered prior to print? The bottom line is that you need to know the top three to five reasons your digital experience matters and then you need to communicate those reasons to your readers.

Q: How do you see the digital edition evolving in the next few years?

A: I think audio will continue to play an interesting role in digital edition consumption. Also, the use of Artificial Intelligence to create highly personalised reading experiences will become more attainable for the average publisher.

“…create and monetise beautifully responsive digital editions and web content…”

About us

For more than a decade, BlueToad has been the digital content partner of choice for thousands of publishers across the globe to create and monetise beautifully responsive digital editions and web content. We help publishers credibly and affordably meet reader expectations with emerging technologies like mobile editions, responsive web content, audio articles, and virtual reality. BlueToad’s Lily Platform is designed specifically to create rich and engaging mobile editions from print-ready PDFs in just three business days.