If creating a digital edition is in your sights, here is some advice on how to begin the process.
By Cecily Walters
Is your association publications team contemplating adding a digital magazine to complement your print offering? If so, the following advice and insights from several digital magazine providers may prove valuable.
According to Kim Kett, vice president of sales for Godengo+Texterity, some obvious times to consider offering a digital publication are when members are asking for one; if an association has a large number of international members who may not be receiving their issues; or if an association is seeking to reduce costs and would like to offer a digital-only option to its international members. That being said, she notes that any time can be the right time to introduce a digital version.
"A digital version of an association publication can offer members an alternative way to view the publication, and additional enhancements can be included, such as video and audio, which can capture your readers’ attention. Now, with the introduction of mobile versions and apps, there should be nowhere a member cannot access the association publication. If a member looks at their phone numerous times a day and the association app logo is staring back at them, they are reminded constantly of that publication,” she explains.
If creating a digital edition is your plan, Kett 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—who should all have the same agenda for the digital edition—will 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:
· Reproduction quality
· 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. Once you receive the sample digital editions, Johnson notes the importance of evaluating each vendor’s RFP response as it relates to:
· Platform capabilities: Do you like your magazine sample in the vendor’s platform?Does the vendor offer capabilities that meet the short- and long-term strategies?
· Clients: Does the company have accounts like yours?
· Business model: Is the vendor a software company or a digital publishing company?
· Consulting services: Are consulting services included in the pricing?Will these services help maximize your digital edition program?
· Value proposition: Which provider offers the best cost-to-benefits ratio that meets your digital edition strategy?
Kett also believes in the importance of working with 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,” explains Susan Parente, publications marketing manager for The Sheridan Group. "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.”
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.”
Also, it might be useful to keep in mind that some vendors who work with association publications teams can also create a mobile web version of your publication or native apps for Apple products, Android products, and the Kindle. Kett points out that some "self-service” software models allow a publications team to create a digital version on its own. However, she stresses, "An association should consider carefully if they would like to undertake that internally depending on their staff bandwidth, especially if they are considering creating apps, as navigating Apple, Google, and Amazon can prove a bit challenging.”
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? Weigh in on Cecily’s blog post featured on blurb.
Cecily Walters is assistant editor for the School Nutrition Association’s School Nutrition magazine and a member of Association Media & Publishing’s Content Creation Committee.