Publishing content to multiple channels is now the norm, but are publishers doing it effectively and efficiently? We grabbed five minutes with Ross Paterson, the new CEO at multichannel publishing specialists, WoodWing.
Q: In terms of digital transition, where is the publishing industry now?
A: We have all come a long way. It is great to see all of the different initiatives that publishers are taking to create new revenue streams. The Economist, Condé Nast, TI Media have all been successful in increasing digital subscriptions by understanding their audience’s needs and creating quality content for them. Others are creating additional revenue with product licensing, or through affiliates. Clearly everyone is experimenting and learning fast. We have seen many positive stories from publishers stating that their digital revenue lines are growing significantly. So, although we’re not quite there yet, based on the progress that we are seeing with our customers, I am really optimistic of a sustainable future for publishers.
Q: What emerging publishing trends should we all be keeping an eye on?
A: Well a trend that has been here for some time, but that I still expect to increase in the future, is the use of AI. As machine learning continues to increase in popularity, AI will become more and more intelligent. Furthermore, in the near future, I expect audio to be more of an integral part of storytelling. Recently, I read a story that excited me: it was explaining how to tell stories using multiple techniques. For example, using text, (interactive) video, audio and even events (live & virtual) to cover a story. The Harvard Business Review is ahead of the pack in this area.
Q: What can publishers do to increase engagement?
A: Let me start with the obvious: it comes down to understanding your audience. What do they want? I know it is so obvious but I feel that in the recent past, with the pressure to publish to every new publishing platform, it has set us in the wrong direction.
Publishers should select the platforms that are most important to their audiences and communicate with them there. A good overall digital experience allows you to build relationships with your audiences first. Create a multi-platform strategy that is based on the behaviour patterns of those you want to reach, and provide them with valuable content. And only after you have solidified your relationship with your audience and have them fully engaged, then introduce your products, services and additional offerings.
Q: What is the secret of efficient multichannel content creation?
A: Changing the way you work. A great story is a great story. Whether it is for digital or print. So, publishers should really focus on creating great stories first. After that, choose where and how you want to publish the story. I still see some editorial teams organised in an inefficient way. The key is to have a workflow with a technology stack that allows you to create a story with full team collaboration, do channel specific tweaks and publish it to any channel of your choice, all in one system. So, the secret is having your teams adopt this way of working and having the technology that supports this workflow. Increasing collaboration and reusing great content is vital.
Q: In publishing workflows, where, typically, can the greatest efficiencies be found?
A: As the amount of content to be created grows, so does the challenge to structure and archive content. Having one repository in which you can search, find and re-use content saves a lot of time. Besides that, it allows you to have control over the content, your most valuable assets and how they are used. This is one area where technology can really help to increase efficiency.
The second area is in organising editorial teams. Too often, we come across organisations that are structured around channels, for example one team for digital and one team for print. Whereas having editorial teams that are focused on creating great stories or on their specialist topic area, allows for better output and efficiency.
Q: How can ‘digital pennies’ be turned into ‘digital pounds’?
A: I would say, keep experimenting. Focus on creating quality content by understanding your audience’s interests and needs. And reuse that quality content in different formats to quickly and easily create additional revenue streams. I am convinced consumers will pay for quality content and recent research proves this. In that sense, ‘fake news’ is helping quality journalism to be of value. So, it comes down to: know your audience, create relevant content, experiment with using content in different formats, and operate using smart technology that allows for efficient story creation.