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5 Questions to Bridge the Print to Digital Divide - 4/5/2011 -

A digital readiness audit takes the guesswork out of developing new content outlets.

By Josephine Rossi

With so much going on in the tech world, itís tempting to ditch your print publication for shiny new iPads, smartphones, or other mobile devices. But, just like your stock portfolio, diversification of content channels is critical during times of change, and savvy publishers rely on reader research to point them in the right direction.

Conducting a digital assessment audit takes the guesswork out of developing new content outlets. Backed with statistically valid information, publishers can confidently predict adoption levels for yet-to-be-implemented platforms and give their advertising sales team ammunition to push the hottest electronic extras from day one. And, as organizations dive deeper into digital distribution channels, assessing their effectiveness will be essential for generating managementís support for further investments.

What to Ask

Sometimes, an in-depth look at reader preferences and habits can help eliminate offerings that arenít useful anymore. In most cases, however, associations find that their readers want a combination of print and digital content. The trick is to ask some key questions that get at how to balance the two without forcing readers to change their behaviors.

Consider these five questions every publisher should be asking readers:

1. How often do you read the print publication? Answers to this can speak volumes about your readers and their engagement levels. Respondents who have little time for professional reading may benefit from reduced print frequency supplemented by online extras or digital-only issues.

2. Which mobile technologies do you use? A simple question, but perhaps the most important. Readers' use of mobile devices and other technologies indicates whether they are well equipped to access more electronic content. If they are using them, you should be, too.

3. How often do you access online content? If readership is low, you could have an awareness problem. Consider sending an e-mail blastówith editorial highlights and linksóalerting readers when issues are posted, and be sure to tap Facebook or Twitter to draw in your audience.

4. Which delivery format do you prefer for [specific information]? Answers will help you optimize your print-digital mix. Electronic formats may be more appropriate for some content, such as breaking news, but print may still be a favorite for features and trends information.

5. What other electronic publications do you read? Tap successful competitors for examples of online ads and editorial enhancements that will resonate with readers and advertisers, such as blow-in cards, mouse-over videos, and audio clips.

The hardest part of taking the leap to digital is fear of the unknown. But by investing in research on the front end, publishers can more easily upgrade and refine their digital and print offerings to create customized content solutions that benefit readers and their advertising bottom lines.

Josephine Rossi is publications manager for Stratton Publishing & Marketing Inc., a provider of custom media, marketing, and research and analysis.


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