4 Oct 2011

Why & how print publications need to go online

Having to contend with the fact that they always several hours behind 24-hour TV news and online news aggregators; hardly ever being able to air breaking news; and almost never being able to be part of the resultant chatter... traditional publications find it impossible to stay away from the online medium.

Today, the rise of mobile Internet means that newsfeeds are now broadcasted directly to individuals around the world! In fact, the availability of real time economic data has made business publications almost superfluous.

On the flip-side there are high quality editorials, op-eds and expert analyses that still command respect and are valued by readers. But this has a direct cost - and mushrooming competition and thinning advertising revenue do exert tremendous pressure on expenses.

So they all inevitably have to go online looking to generate revenue and build equity.

However, there are 3 practical aspects to be considered when an offline publication goes online:

1. Offering largely the same content for free online (almost in real-time) would logically eat into offline subscription. This problem would be more pronounced for non-news, non-daily publications that cannot constantly update content.

2. The few dozen competitors on a supermarket shelf, now turn into millions of rival content sources online!

3. Advertisers may not wish to invest in online advertising till sufficient traffic is generated. Worse still, they may ask for online advertising to be a 'value-add' to a paid offline ad.

The solution, possibly, is for the online version of a publication to cater to a much more niche community than the offline one!

For example, a Women's magazine (offline) may turn into a Women Entrepreneurs' community online. Or a Business magazine (offline) may become a CMOs' community online.

The rationale is that while the objective of an offline publication is to sell space - so the broader the audience, the more the advertisement possibilities - the goal online should be to build and monetise specific user communities by creating high-value advertising opportunites.

The aim online must be for the highest 'quality' of interaction / involvement, instead of 'quantity' of traffic.

Yes, it is 'good' content that drives involvement and interaction; but we can only begin to define 'good' when we know 'for whom'.

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