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Lead Members to Cross-Platform Publishing - 11/8/2011 -

When it comes to digital editions and mobile apps, sometimes your members might not know what they will use until you give it to them.

By Brian Davis

As I slid a chair up to a recent Association Media & Publishing-sponsored roundtable discussion on cross-platform publishing and mobile apps, the enthusiasm for the topic couldn’t be clearer. So clear that, for a second, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to participate. Association employees, eager to learn about mobile platforms and their added benefits, manned every inch of the table.

As I nudged into the last bit of space, most of us shared that we had a measure of experience, but certainly not a complete understanding of all mobile platforms. One colleague, who offers a digital edition of his publication, requested, "Define a mobile app.”

One of us might know about digital editions and their benefits, for example, but might not know the perks of an app and a mobile website. We quickly learned about all of them—print, digital editions, mobile websites, and mobile apps. We learned from each other, but especially from our moderator, Kim Kett, vice president of sales and marketing for Texterity.

"Don’t give the readers any reason not to engage in the content,” Kett said.

After all, each mobile platform has unique benefits. Digital editions allow the reader to zoom, skip, search, and highlight, and they encourage the developer to create—polls, video, animations, slideshows, 360-degree views—you name it. Mobile apps permit offline access to content, libraries for back issues, more-detailed analysis of reader activity, and more. Mobile websites simplify browsing your website from mobile devices. These features are all new creative options for us in association publishing, but they’re also new benefits for association members.

Kett, describing an association that showed off a new member benefit—a digital edition—by offering access to one issue to expired members, suggested a potential pitch, "Look what we’ve done since you left us.”

Still, association employees might confront some roadblocks when venturing into cross-platform publishing. How will the content in your digital edition compare with what’s in your print edition? Who will find the time to draft that additional content? Internally, your colleagues and superiors may not understand the mentioned benefits of cross-platform publishing. Or, they might argue that your membership won’t use a mobile app or read a digital edition.

Kett offered up an example that might make a believer of anyone doubting their members would embrace an app and its benefits—a wildly successful app for an association of free masons.

"People don’t know they want it until they see it,” Kett said.

Brian Davis works as practice groups editorial coordinator for the American Health Lawyers Association. Association Media & Publishing thanks him for offering to cover this event for members who were unable to attend.


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