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Negotiating a Digital Divorce - 9/11/2012 -

Here are one provider’s insights as well as some prenuptial tips.

By Marlene L. Hendrickson

You remember when it happened—the day your magazine went digital. That day, your publication took on new life, new bonus content, new social meaning. But here you are, barely two years later, and it looks like you’re headed for digital divorce.

It’s not that you’ve been unhappy in the relationship. Sure, you’ve had your trying moments, but you never thought it would end like this. Unfortunately, it’s out of your hands now. Your association’s leadership has made lots of big decisions recently, and discontinuing your digital magazine is one of them.

So what happens now? What happens to your already published digital issues? What happens to your platform? How do you explain the split to readers?

Here are some brief answers—but keep in mind that every relationship (or contract) is different. Reach out to your digital provider for a refresher on your publication’s terms.

Keep What’s Yours

Kim Kett, vice president, national accounts, for Godengo+Texterity, and a member of the Association Media & Publishing board of directors, says content digitized by her company "always belongs to the publishers—as well as any names they give us to send e-mail notifications on their behalf.”

"So in the event that a publisher needs to discontinue, we can provide back to them their marked up PDFs, for a nominal fee,” Kett explains, "since we normally need to go in and pull all the files for our archives and deliver them to an FTP site.”

On the editorial side, this is a good reminder to keep digital files well-organized and separate from files that have been finalized for your print edition—if there is a print edition. This is particularly important if your digital edition features bonus content (not found in print).

Consider Your Options

If you’ve been happy with your digital provider and the user experience, but must call it quits for other reasons, consider maintaining the platform you’ve already developed and populated for a monthly fee.

If maintaining the platform is not an option and your digital magazine has a download option, let readers know that they should download the issues they’d like to keep by a certain date.

Apps created by a digital provider are treated differently. In the case of Godengo+Texterity apps, Kett offers this explanation: "If a reader has downloaded a publisher’s app and then downloaded the subsequent issues, and then the publisher chooses to discontinue, even if we remove the app from the app store, the app and the downloaded issues will remain on that member's device.”

Plan the Prenup

Ramping up a digital platform, developing digital-only content, maximizing digital content sharing on social networks, and everything that goes into creating and nurturing a successful digital magazine can be hard and consuming work. But it is well worth doing the extra "what-if” work ahead of time.

Before signing a contract with a digital provider, ask those potential divorce questions. Confirm what happens to your files, your digital issues, and your readers’ e-mail addresses. Find out what it would cost to maintain the platform should you decide to stop publishing.

And perhaps most important, have a plan in place to ease your readers through any kind of transition. They are, after all, the ones who need and deserve the most attention if you expect them to stay loyal and engaged with your publications.

Marlene L. Hendrickson is director of publications at the American Staffing Association.


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