By Cecily Walters
Is your association publications team contemplating adding a digital magazine to complement your print offering?
If creating a digital edition is your plan, Kim Kett, vice president of sales for Godengo + Texterity, offers some advice on beginning the process. "Pull together a meeting of all of the departments who will be affected by launching a digital/mobile publication. This likely includes membership, IT, and advertising sales, as well as the publications group, of course," she explains. Kett believes that clear communication between all departments involved¡ªwho should all have the same agenda for the digital edition¡ªwill reduce the number of bumps in the road. "It is great if the association has a strategy of why they are launching it or how they want to launch it (at an annual meeting, perhaps)," she details.
That's a goal echoed by Scott Johnson, vice president of business development for Qmags, who emphasizes that the association should have a robust digital edition strategy that identifies the short- and long-term goals for the product.
When it's time to consider possible vendors to create your digital edition, Johnson suggests that your digital edition committee review the digital platforms of multiple providers to evaluate:
Ease of use
Options to save an issue
Based on this evaluation, your committee should select three or four providers with the best platforms and send them an RFP based upon your digital edition strategy. Then, Johnson recommends, request that each provider prepare a sample of your magazine in the vendor's platform.
Kett also believes in the importance of selecting a vendor who will work closely with your team and be patient. "It is not always easy to undertake a launch," she observes.
Depending on your goals for your digital edition and your overall publications and advertising strategy, you may decide to work with a vendor to produce a digital magazine that is an exact replica of your print publication. Alternately, you may choose to offer online sponsorships or other enhancements to advertisers or incorporate special features for the digital edition, such as audio features or slideshows.
"When editorial departments plan their print editions, they should be simultaneously planning their digital versions. Although content in both formats may be parallel, the digital platform offers many opportunities for publishers to enhance the reader experience and add value to their publications. For example, when a reporter interviews someone for a print article, he or she could take video of the interview to add to the mobile edition of the article," explains Susan Parente, publications marketing manager for The Sheridan Group.
Once you've selected a provider and have identified the scope of the work the vendor will perform for your digital edition, where do you go from there? Kett notes that a publications team "should anticipate member questions like, ¡®Am I still going to get my print edition?' Your vendor should be able to help with messaging for the launch to make things clear to members."
Is your association publications team looking to go digital? Or, if you've gone digital, what advice would you offer other publications teams currently in the process?