As publishers transition workflows, tools, and organizational structure to reshape revenue streams so digital revenue exceeds print, I’ve identified the four phases of digital publishing transformation. The following image captures the phases and the intersection of print and digital revenues. The four phases comprise—planning, realization, survival, and new world. As a publisher moves through these phases there are specific events within each phase that cause the publisher to either remain stagnant or move forward to the next phase.
Planning phase. This is a low stress phase where a publisher is just starting to experience a low erosion of print revenue and is experimenting with digital products. There is a general feeling that something is coming and resources are allotted to begin a digital strategy plan. Publishers must plan for the move from a tactical content management system to a strategic content management platform that can create, package, and distribute content in a highly automated fashion.
Realization phase. A publisher in this phase is beginning to see print revenue decline pretty quickly while electronic product experiments start to gain momentum and generate revenue. There is a crisis underway in this phase and cultural issues start to emerge across product and editorial teams. It is in this phase that publishers should look to invest strategically in technology because time-to-market pressure in a multi-channel scenario will be the priority over just the print channel. In this phase a publisher must look at people, process, and technology to meet the necessary demands of the new publishing environments. Those who are slow to adopt or embrace change are unlikely to survive.
Survival phase. If the publisher has adequately planned for the transition to a dominant digital revenue stream, this phase will not be as onerous. If there is an extended realization phase, the survival phase may be short because the publisher just won’t make the transition. It is during the survival phase when digital revenue numbers get exciting and begin to challenge print revenue. Publishers who enter the survival phase and begin to produce more digital products will move onto the next phase. These publishers have taken a strategic view of content management.
New world phase. What publishers must embrace in the new world phase is a solid strategic content management platform, production processes that minimize manual intervention and emphasize automation, and a culture of continual improvement. No longer can departments operate in a vacuum, systems be built on home grown technology, or processes remain stagnant. The new world phase embraces change and rapid publishing to new channels and devices. The reward in this phase is the successful transition of print and digital revenue streams. Publishers will see digital sales eclipse print sales and in some exciting cases, digital products can be used to drive print sales. It is in this phase when publishers and product managers can experiment with audiences to understand how the customer is engaged and tweak the delivery of content to customers any time, on any format, on any device.
While certain segments of the publishing industry have moved through this digital publishing transformation, many are still in the planning phases. Tools that support digital publishing have evolved immensely over the past decade. In fact people and processes tend to take more time to transition to the new speed of digital publishing than the implementation of content management tools. We developed RSuite, a content management system for publishers, to serve as the core foundation of a digital publishing strategy. Some of the world’s leading publishers and media companies use RSuite—Oxford University Press, Nature Publishing Group, Triumph Learning, Audible, and many more.
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