There are a lot of print-only magazines still quite active and to varying degrees, profitable. Then there are those magazines who’ve managed the complex challenge to become more digital. And in our experience, a lot more magazines who live in the painful purgatory of being quasi-digital. There’s no single solution for truly becoming more digital or entirely digital.
While some publications, like Newsweek,  Information Week, Glamour and Self (although Self magazine is about to shutter.) Publisher Conde Naste is moving many of its titles to digital only formats. Many a publisher may be tempted to follow the same route. For some it may work, but for most, it won’t. The advantage Conde Naste has is size and number of titles. Lest we think Conde Naste has its game together and a defined digital strategy, well, sort of. Will their shift to purely digital pay off? Perhaps.
For publishers with less of an audience that decide to go purely digital, this is extremely risky and one we’ve often advised against. If circulation and audience isn’t into the millions and digital audience isn’t over at least 600,000 unique visitors a year, going purely digital is a quick way to shutting down. Meredith, Conde Naste, they already have the audience and they’ve invested in back end technology and been clever in their transitions.
Small to medium sized magazines benefit the best when going with an integrated strategy. Sure, paper costs are a constant weight, but trying to play digital with the big guns is a losing proposition. If your magazine has decades of history, you’ve actually got a lot of content value through evergreen content and an opportunity for new revenue streams.
Most small to mid-size publishers think digital means a revamped website and hiring a social media person to post content. That is not digital. That’s a haphazard model that will add costs with little return.
Going digital means developing a strategy that integrates digital channels, print and the back-end technologies to improve workflows. But more importantly, it means looking at and addressing the culture of the publication first. Holisitically, editorially, sales, audience development…everything.
Digital for magazines needs to be integrated, involve cultural change and have a definitive strategy of where you want to go, how you’re going to get there and milestones along the way to adjust. It doesn’t have to be expensive either.

About the Author Giles Crouch

Giles is managing partner of Ekspansiv, a global digital business advisory firm to news media companies . A polymath with over 20 years experience in the digital world, Giles brings together marketing communications, digital anthropology and digital behavioural economics for client projects. He has extensive experience with news media and publishing. Giles is also regularly interviewed by media regarding technology and industry trends. He has completed over 300 digital research projects for clients around the world. Giles co-founded the Ice Awards, an advertising creative awards program in 2001. His clients have included, newspaper, magazine and book publishers as well as pure-play digital media companies. He occasionally works as interim CIO or CDO and senior marketing guidance.

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