The need for print digitization and its options
When the iPhone was introduced in 2007, only few of us guessed that this would initiate the start into a new era of media consumption. Shortly after the iPhone the iPad started off to revolutionize and change the media industry again.
Today, a world without smartphones and tablets cannot be imagined anymore. 66% of the adults in the UK own a smartphone (OFCOM Q1 2015) and 50% own a tablet (Statista 2016). And numbers are counting. The increasing acceptance and spread of mobile devices is one of the reasons why content is totally different consumed than a couple of years ago. Corporations, agencies and media companies have to adapt to this new consumer behaviour of readers and customers in order to not fall behind. Even more honestly and directly: If you don’t think ‘digital’ already today and you don’t offer your print content through at least one of the many digital channels, you have lost already.
But what are the potential options to get your print magazine online to quickly participate in the digital publishing world? There are a few and the pros and cons of every option should be evaluated carefully based on the factors usability, user experience, reach, distribution, responsiveness, adaptability, SEO, time, and costs.
Flipbooks and PDF-Downloads
The quickest and cheapest way into the digital world is the upload of a print-PDF onto your website or the use of a flipbook-tool based on your PDF-file. Especially flipbooks try to reproduce the print-product 1:1 by imitating the skimming effect. There are a lot of free tools available and the flipbook is created quickly by uploading the PDF.
However, static documents no longer meet today's standards and do not exploit the potentials of digitization. The mobile usage is very limited due to the skimming effect, the need to zoom into the page, and the iframe-integration that does not provide a good usability for readers and leaves them with an unfavourable user experience. The capturing of data from static content by Google & Co. is also limited and negatively influences the reach and distribution of the digitized print content therefore. Finally, interactive elements, like video/audio or social media, cannot be integrated into a static solution and since the content is hosted on a third-party platform there is always the risk that your readers migrate to the website of that third-party.
Native Apps for Smartphone and Tablet
Significantly more comfortable with regard to the usability are own native apps that are designed for the use on mobile devices. Apps usually come with a great graphical interface that makes the app in no way inferior to the print-publication. Interactive elements can be integrated without problems and in-app functions make it comfortable to share content across social media channels. Publishers can track download and click rates to measure the attractiveness of their content.
However, apps are not used as much as publishers would like it to be. For one thing readers do not want to install one app per magazine, for another thing the competition in the app-store is gigantic. Another major downside: Content in apps is not being indexed by search engines at the expense of your online reach. Furthermore, the costs for the initial app creation and adding of each magazine issue is relatively high.
Digitization into Full-HTML-Websites
The most ideal and flexible multi-channel solution in digital publishing is probably the digitization into full-HTML websites. Due to the flexible HTML-basis graphic design of the digital publication only know little limits. However, HTML-based publications always slightly deviate from the classic print appearance because it is specifically directed to online-readers and aims to provide a flawless online usability. Other benefits of this solution are its ability to adapt to every possible screen size (responsive design) and the unlimited options to integrate social sharing functions, both preconditions for an optimal user experience on all common devices. Also in terms of SEO and reach HTML-based solutions offers convincing arguments because search engines capture HTML-contents best and make it available to any information seeker worldwide. Same as with apps publishers can monitor attractiveness and relevance of their contents with tools like Google Analytics and record every click and social share.
In the area of professional digitization several options exists how to achieve a full digitization of content – through Open Source Content Management Systems (CMS), Digital Publishing Platforms (DPP) or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. Many factors play a role in deciding which digitization option to choose. Publishers need to consider the time, costs, and resources that will be needed for an implementation. In general, however, it can be said that SaaS-solutions are often less cost-intensive and faster to implement. DPP or CMS need to be connected to several in-house systems and interfaces first and have to be maintained and operated manually. SaaS-solutions are usually implemented and operational within a few weeks only and work on a given content basis, e.g. the already existing print-PDF that is digitized automatically and provides the basis for the online content.
Marcus te Rehorst