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What are Industry Experts Saying About Digital Publishing and Monetisation?

Digital publishing remains a hot topic for publishers who are still trying to figure out how to make it work and more specifically, how to monetise their content digitally. Even though print continues to be the most profitable source of revenue for most publishers, digital has seen a massive increase in mobile usage, providing the opportunity to further monetise content and grow reader engagement.

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Transitioning gradually with the experimentation of digital does not only provide more revenue streams but also grows readers engagement. Digital media including mobile now accounts to nearly 49.6% of all media time according to eMarketer and 90% of all mobile time is spent in apps.

Social media platforms HootSuite and We Are Social have produced some great visual statistics to show the growth of digital globally (special report).


Due to the rapid growth of digital content, media production agency, Rhapsody, spoke to some industry experts and commentators to gain valuable insights about the state of digital publishing and monetisation. Here’s what they had to say...

Facebook vs owned digital platforms with D.Eadward Tree

D. Eadward Tree, the pseudonumous magazine-industry insider from Dead Tree Edition, shares his thoughts on Facebook's recent news feed algorithm changes and on the importance for publishers to react to this and use it as an opportunity to grow engagement on their own digital platforms. 

“Now that we publishers will be getting fewer referrals from Facebook, we must become better at encouraging repeat visits. Our traditional approach of bashing people over the head with interstitials asking them to sign up for our newsletters no longer works. (How many people do you know who want their inbox to become even more cluttered?)

We need to woo them, to show them our newsletters without first demanding that they give us their email addresses. Post your newsletter on your website and invite people to have a look. Give the newsletter its own Twitter feed, so that people can discover or follow it that way. Encourage readers to bookmark the page. (Yes, that's still a thing.) And provide them something special -- perhaps a free e-book, plus the promise of not spamming them -- if they will do us the favor of subscribing to the newsletter via email.”

Branded responsive app publishing with Jim Foster

Rhapsody also asked Jim Foster, Head of ePublishing, Bauer Media “What are your thoughts on responsive publisher apps? Is there opportunity for publishers to monetise their content?”

“Responsive is probably the right way to go, if possible and economically viable.

If you can manage content via a single workflow through responsive app templates, great – don’t be afraid of simple templates that look great on phone and tablet. The key is user experience as opposed to intricate and overly clever designs. Great design is simplicity, especially on the iPhone.

There is opportunity but it’s very difficult. You’ll only make money if there’s an audience for your content on digital platforms and if you can market it effectively, continuously. Which is obvious but true. So do your research and make sure there’s a market before you invest anything. Start small and work bigger. Keep your costs under control all the time and only invest what you can afford to lose.

Once you’ve found there is a market, push discoverability and installs through App Store Optimisation (ALSO, if you have no budget – it’s the SEO of the App Store) and via PPC to targeted audience segments on key social platforms (if you do have budget). Invest in keyword bidding and search on the App Store if you have money but again, always start small and monitor progress. Don’t be afraid to bid on your own brand and competitor keywords.

Conversion has a long tail, so don’t give up if you don’t see massive success after three months. This is a long-haul thing – there are unlikely to be any quick wins. You’re going to have to work at it and keep working at it and manage it continuously. Otherwise you’ll fail.

Install push priming and analytics SDKs in your app. Get an attribution SDK in it to understand where your users are coming from.

Run weekly reports. Set yourself targets. Have easy-to-access free trialling with upsells so readers can see how good your content and UX is. Get good app store ratings. Offer great and instant customer service. Ensure all these levers are working (because if one isn’t, it can bugger up absolutely everything)…”

Jim also shared his number one tip for digital publishing in 2018. “Make sure EVERY lever is working efficiently and monitor your KPIs weekly. And if you’re over 40, invest in some good blood pressure medication from your GP…”

According to Bauer Media’s Head of ePublishing, launching an app is only the first step to becoming a successful digital publisher. Marketing the app is of extreme importance and if you don’t do it effectively or monitor your KPIs you can quickly waste a great deal of effort and resource.

Here’s how to maximise app exposure and ensure your content is seen ...

Mobile Publishing with Peter Houston

Last but not least, we also asked Peter Houston from Flipping Pages Media for his valuable insight. Here are his views on digital publishing and monetisation…

What are your thoughts on responsive publisher apps and is there opportunity for publishers to monetise their content?

“Last year, I would have said this would be really, really tough – the only way to monetise apps would be to add serious value, either with original content or advanced functionality. I think these rules still hold, but following Facebook’s de-prioritisation of publisher content, there may be an opportunity for publishers to fill the content gap through their own apps. This will be easiest for publishers that develop strong subscription or membership models.”

Top 3 tips on how publishers can monetise their content using digital/mobile publishing

“Start by building direct relationships with your audience. This can be through email newsletters, apps or web pages for registered users. Too many publishers have surrendered those direct relationships to social media platforms. It’s time to take them back.

With relationships in place its possible to use audience data and research to develop and market niche products that the audience will pay for. Added value through specialisation, or even personalisation, will be a huge revenue driver for digital publishers in the future.

Straight-forward digital display is increasingly difficult, but sponsored content, produced in collaboration with advertisers and distributed carefully is still working for both publishers and marketers. The big caveat is that it must be respectful of the audience: Clumsy hard sells won’t work.”

Number 1 tip for digital publishing in 2019

"Paid content. Whether it’s paywalls like the one Wired has just introduced, memberships like the Guardian or De Correspondent, or premium reports like BI Intelligence, it’s all about creating value that people will pay for. Establishing a paid relationship with audiences will be key for publishers in 2019."

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