Seven Smart Digital Publishing Ideas – Q&A

In our latest Top Tips webinar, held on Tuesday, Carolyn Morgan discussed examples of digital publishing and the ideas that might inspire other publishers. Here, Carolyn provides further information in response to some of the questions raised by publishers during the Q&A.

By Carolyn Morgan


Q: How can reader content be monetised?

A: Most publishers see this simply as a way to drive traffic and build loyalty, so not necessarily a direct link to revenue. TES Resources has created an internal market, where teachers can earn money by selling lesson plans to their peers, and TES takes a variable share of the revenues.

Q: Do you see a tension with potential advertisers using it to get free publicity?

A: Yes, that is a risk, so it needs to be strictly policed. Helps to have some commercial content-driven opportunities for advertisers and you should direct advertisers to those options.


Q: How do you decide whether to invest in social media? Is it really worthwhile?

Q: How should a publisher choose their preferred social media platforms?

A: The best approach is experimentation. Start with the platforms that are already delivering traffic, pick two or three and design content that suits the platform, then run a test for say three months and monitor the impact on traffic. Keep reviewing the effort involved against the traffic, ad revenue and email database delivered.

Q: Any tips for how to share content on social media? Is there a method to getting the most engagement?

A: Depends on your market, but in general, images, charts, cartoons, graphs, video, quotes do best. Take a look at how related publishers are doing this and note what gets most shares and comments.

Q: Why do you think so many publishers are suspicious of Facebook and are they right to be so?

A: Well, they probably are right to be suspicious as Facebook is there to keep people on its platform and maximise its own ad revenue, built from third party content. But, on balance, it’s better to engage with them and learn what works for your business, while also using other social platforms, optimising for search and building up your own database.

Q: Shareable content, video etc is all very good for free content - but when content is behind a paywall, the shareability becomes redundant. What's your suggestion for paywall content in the digital world?

A: I think all publishers need two tiers of content. The premium stuff that is for subscribers only, and then a tier of content that is specifically designed to be accessible for social and search – providing a taster of the quality but not giving away the really premium stuff. The Economist is very good at sharing a few stats or quotes from a story but not the meaty stuff, which is behind the paywall.

Q: Any examples of B2B media using Facebook successfully?

A: Harvard Business Review gets a lot of traffic from Facebook; the Economist has 7 million likes for its Facebook page. The trick is picking out the articles with more general interest that still represent the authority of the publication.

Q: Any tips on how to get time-poor executives to engage? In B2B, it still feels very much like a one-way street!

A: Maybe adopt some of the approaches used by conference producers sourcing speakers – give them a chance to raise their profile or their company profile by sharing an opinion or a case study. Or run an awards scheme? Or invite them to join a panel for a webinar? Surveys with an incentive of receiving a copy of the results might also work.

Q: What's the best way to use LinkedIn as a platform to attract people to your website?

A: Suggest creating a series of articles/ content from your site that you want to promote – and then posting these on relevant groups, and as LinkedIn posts or updates by individuals within your editorial team – all linking back to the site. Worth also creating your own group in your industry sector, and curating third party content as well as your own editorial. Monitor what works and then fine tune the effort.


Q: We're a tiny publisher (all the editorial done by one person!). If we were to make slideshow/video versions of some of our more popular features, what software would you recommend using for someone who is very new to video?

A: The example I gave was the Economist. They use a Facebook tool that allows a series of photos to be merged into videos. See this link.


Q: For a new title, would you recommend a digital first approach?

A: Yes, absolutely! If you have the freedom to consider what information your audience need, then you can plan from scratch what they might want to see on mobile, on desktop, and then (possibly) in print.


Q: We're considering moving one of our currently free (but subscriber based) specialist B2B websites towards a paywall model. Any tips or pitfalls to avoid?

A: Worth doing this in two steps. If you don’t have free registration, then create a tier of content that requires registration and basic data to access – maybe reports or content from events. Then you can build both an email database and some analytics on what content registered users are most interested in, which should provide some clues as to what content should sit behind a paywall.

A recording of the webinar can be viewed here.