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Digital Publications and Apps: Is It Time to Take the Leap? - 1/8/2014 -

Jen Smith, creative director at Network Media Partners, is passionate about print and digital and has won several awards for her work in both. Here she gives a few pointers for associations considering digital publications or apps.

By Carla Kalogeridis

Q: You've helped several associations launch digital publications and apps. What are some of the most important lessons learned by these organizations?

The most important thing is to decide, based on solid research, where you want to reach out to your audience. Do you really need to be absolutely everywhere? An association should focus its collective energy and resources on the medium that makes the most sense for them and their audience.

Sometimes, organizations think about digital publications in progression: first we need a digital magazine, then perhaps a tablet publication or mobile app. But you donít need to do it all. Ask yourself why you need the digital publication that you are considering. Make sure you know what value it will bring.

Q: So doing the research on your particular audience is important, regardless of whatís trending in the media world?

Smith: Yes, absolutely. The results will be different for each association membership. If you do the research first, you wonít be launching a new publication based on assumptions. But having said that, you also canít be afraid to course correct if, based on data, you see that things are changing.

Q: Launching an app sounds like a major undertaking to many associations. Is it as complicated and daunting as it seems?

Smith: You need someone whoís done it before, but itís really just a matter of walking through the steps. Itís not that hard. Iíve seen organizations that havenít done anything in the digital world before jump straight to launching an app. Based on the research, for some associations it just makes sense to focus on an app before anything else.

Q: For many associations, their print publications are a main source of revenue. Are associations able to earn solid revenue with their digital publications or are the digital publications serving more as a complement to their print at this point?

Smith: My experience has been that publishers in general are not seeing a major jump in revenue from digital alone. Newsweek went all-digital, and now they are coming back to print. I see digital as more of a complement to your communications product lineónot a replacement of anything in that line.

Some associations have a digital-first or digital-only strategy, and Iíve seen that work, but it requires a different kind of marketing. For example, one association I know launched an open-access tablet edition of their magazine. The purpose is to provide members some content in a new, engaging format. Its other purpose is to attract new members.

Q: Youíre presenting at an Association Media & Publishing Lunch & Learn on January 22, 2014. Who is your talked geared toward and what can attendees expect to gain?

Smith: My co-presenter Randy Nanna, publisher at the American Institute of Physics, and I are delivering ideas for people considering or planning the launch of a digital publication. Weíre going to discuss what research is needed to inform decision making, how digital publications fit into an association communications strategy, and the content and design considerations for a digital publication.

Weíre also going to talk about pragmatic ways to update some of the content you already have with a digital element.

To hear more from Jen Smith about digital publication launches, register (members complimentary) for the January 22, 2014 Lunch & Learn, "Are You Ready to Go Digital?Ē More details and registration information here.

Carla Kalogeridis is editorial director of Association Media & Publishing.


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