Four Requirements for Achieving Digital-First Success

Four Requirements for Achieving Digital-First Success

November 19, 2020 Uncategorized 0

The demanding editorial realities of the transition from a print-first to a digital-first publication process were the topic of ASBPE’s excellent November 17 webinar, “How to Navigate the Path to Digital-First, Part II.” In this follow-up to their September talk, Lisa Pierce, executive editor, Packaging Digest, and Rich Luna, editor-in-chief, The Meeting Professional, answered a range of questions from attendees.

Over the course of their session, four main practices for a successful digital transition emerged.

The first is establishing and maintaining a unique niche. Pierce advises digital-first seekers to determine what you can do for your audience and community “that needs to be done” and that “nobody else is doing.”

A second is delivering high-enterprise news coverage. Luna emphasized the importance of finding “great stories to tell.” What he tells his team, he said, is to produce “home run” stories with “high-end enterprise” and “sophisticated” reporting and writing. “Find that one story each month to tell,” he said, “and that’s how you rise above the noise: with great content.”

The third key digital-first practice is providing consistent, ongoing training. For Pierce, offering a steady flow of training for her team has been aided by being part of a large publishing corporation, Informa. With fewer in-house resources, Luna has relied on several helpful vendors.

The fourth key practice is carefully watching your numbers. Pierce strongly advised checking website metrics daily. Knowing how well each article performs, she said, is critical to maintaining a relevant, high-traffic website.

These four essential digital-first practices make good sense. However, standing in the way of digital-first success for many is cost. To a certain extent, noted Luna, this downside is offset by the fact that producing digital is less expensive than preparing print media. At the same time, the reduction in ad revenue remains a problem, he admitted.

Are We Really Ready To Roll?

In digital-first workshops like this, I am usually skeptical about our ability to get the job done. It’s one thing to be employed by a publisher able to provide the necessary financial resources. And even in the best cases, revenue availability is still on the light side. But if your goal is to stand out from the crowd, you’ll never get there if your best effort is only halfway. And it’s not only money that counts.

For example, let’s consider how we measure up in terms of enterprise reporting. We may applaud the goal of delivering great content, but it’s not going to happen if 65% of our e-news is rewritten PR announcements. Remember Luna’s argument for home run content? Well, Lisa Pierce wants to deliver at least one four-bagger a week. And she’ll probably do it. Can you?

Here’s the enterprise-outlook reality for the majority of editorial teams. Last year I introduced an e-news calculation suggesting that at least 60% of delivered quotes should reflect direct contact with interviewed sources. This year, most sites analyzed so far in my annual study can’t go higher than 40%.

To make a long story short, I would urge ASBPE to continue its digital-first webinar series. But Part III should be devoted to affordability. What’s the minimum investment you need to reach an acceptable level of digital-first performance?

In the meantime, if you didn’t get to watch it live, the November 17th webinar is now available on demand.

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