Over the past few years, the evidence has become overwhelmingly clear that most people are receiving their news and magazine content online. The paper and printing industry has been hit especially hard since new tariffs were introduced in 2018. Some publishers, such as the Daily Sentinel in Colorado, are facing a steep increase in print cost- upwards of 30%. Even Creative Loafing, one of Atlanta’s favorite news and culture magazines, made the switch to prioritize online publishing in August 2017, moving away from weekly issues for the first time since 1972. The rise in print publication cost, along with the increase in online readership has many publishers wondering what the best course of action may be, and how to transition in an efficient and cost-effective way. Today’s Winning Strategy examines three different approaches to help businesses consider how best to migrate their content online, in an attempt to answer the questions on many publishers’ minds: “What are my options for transitioning from print to online publication, and how can I continue to provide my audience with the content they love in a cost-effective way?”
1. Publish Entirely Online
If you have already begun seeing positive traction from your online publications, or if you simply cannot continue to afford print publication costs, moving your content online may be the best (or in some cases only) option available for you. For publishers who have been in the print media space for decades, or who have an elderly reader base, it’s understandable to be weary of even the thought of such a dramatic transition. However, if circumstances are dire and you’re not sure if you’ll be able to stay in production for the remainder of the year, we highly recommend you consider making the leap to online publishing.
Before doing so, you can always attempt to call, write, or email your subscribers to either ask for their feedback regarding the transition to online publishing, or let them know that the change is happening and what they should expect next. This is a good opportunity to present a call-to-action and direct them to your website, or otherwise prompt them to supply their full name, email, and phone number if you haven’t done so already. While it may seem slightly uncomfortable to reach out to your audience with this type of announcement, many people will likely feel valued that you took the time to reach out and communicate what is happening with your organization and why it’s important. Furthermore, you will be able to gauge the response and estimate how effective your move to online publishing may be with your current core readers.
2. Print Less Often and Partially Shift to Publishing Online
For some companies, moving entirely away from print in a timely manner may not be feasible with your current infrastructure. This is pretty common for news, journals, or magazine companies who with a long legacy in the print space, but are interested in transitioning their content online. Creative Loafing’s decision to move from weekly to monthly print editions is a prime example of how a company can still provide excellent print content that is distributed on a less regular basis.
“We are moving into a new era for Creative Loafing. One that continues to respond to both our reader and local, independent advertiser needs. We’re committed to continuous improvement of the monthly print edition, and vast improvement and rapid development of innovative digital products that bring our advertisers the results that will grow their businesses, and our readers the content they want on any medium they choose.”
– Sharry Smith, Creative Loafing Publisher
“This is a monumental change for Creative Loafing, and one we didn’t make without much consideration, but we are excited about the opportunities that this new era presents — both in print and on the web.”
– Carlton Hargro, Creative Loafing Editor in Chief
In terms of logistics and ease of migration, our firm recommends this transition method if it’s fiscally possible for the company. Doing so allows you to experiment over time with online publishing to determine what type of content is most engaging for your readers, how often you should publish, which platforms you should publish on, etc. Doing so could also potentially allow you to take an even more focused approach to your print content. Lastly, readers appreciate having the option of consuming your content on any medium of their choice. Assuming printing and distribution is still a financially viable option for you, printing less often while offering your content online appeals to the best of both worlds!
3. Supplement Current Printing Schedule With Online Content
Another option is to maintain your current printing schedule, and publish the content online. While our firm doesn’t believe this to be the most cost-effective method for making your content available online, papers that publish daily may not have much of a choice. Due to the internal complexities of corresponding information between the writers, editors, and distributors, those publishers who cannot move away from regular printing will need to consider who, when, and where content should be shared online. Will editors be responsible for publishing articles online? Will staff publish it before or after the content is available in print? Will the content be published on the company website, Apple, or Google News (you can learn more about these options below)?
Supplementing your current printing schedule with online content may not be the cheapest or easiest solution, but it can allow you to monitor and compare both print and online publications to assess which segment is bringing you the most readers, and ultimately the most profit. If you’re not ready to commit to going fully digital and aren’t comfortable cutting back on your print publication schedule, then teaming up with an effective agency to help you develop your in-house production tools will be crucial. Read further to learn more about which options are available to you.
Depending on the size of your organization and funds available, there are several online options to consider. In all cases, you will want to factor in the amount of money saved every month by cutting out printing and physical distribution costs. You can contact Winnona Partners anytime if you have questions or would like more details for the following options:
- Most Economical Option: If you have less than $10,000, a WordPress website may be your best option for publishing online. You can either hire an agency to help get you set up, or simply sign up for a WordPress site, transfer or register your domain, and begin publishing yourself. The lowest cost plan that we recommend is the Personal Plan (approximately $50/year), but customization and monetization options are limited. Visitors can subscribe to you with or without a WordPress account for free. You learn more about WordPress subscription options here.
- Highest Quality Option: If you have $10,000 or more, you should be able to hire an outside firm to develop a high-quality website built on a framework like React that can publish content, obtain and manage paying subscribers, and be fully customized to satisfy your branding and publishing needs. We recommend this option for organizations that have some financial flexibility, and are ready to make the long-term push for publishing online. Having a custom website will have a higher upfront cost and include some recurring monthly fees to host your content. However, having the ability to stay up to date with the latest tech trends with total control over how your website looks, feels, and functions makes this the best overall option for your company if you can afford it.
- Apple and Google News Option: Apple News and Google News are both effective forms of getting your content available online with possibility of generating revenue with advertisements. Both of these platforms do require an approval process before your content appears online. You can learn more about how to get on Google News here. You can learn more about how to get on Apple News here. Both of these platforms are free to use, with Apple just requiring an Apple ID and Developer account if you want to monetize with ads ($99/year). Apple and Google both offer publishing options where you can compose and post your articles directly, or you can set up an RSS feed or other links to your website. See the links above for more information regarding setting these up. We recommend all publishers consider this option as it is relatively low-cost to publish and can reach a large audience of active readers.