5 Reasons Why Your Digital Publishing Strategy Isn't Working

Timo Lamour

When it comes to role models for great digital publishing strategies, the same names keep coming up. What does that mean? Obviously that some companies have managed to adapt to the change in readership more successfully than others. However, the vast majority of publishers are disappointed with their own digital publishing strategy.

When it comes to role models for great digital publishing strategies, the same names come up again and again.

What does that mean? Obviously, some companies have been more successful than others in adapting to the change in readership. However, the vast majority of publishers are disappointed with their own digital publishing strategy.

In my experience, if your digital division is either attracting too few readers or generating too little revenue, one of the following 5 reasons is behind it.

1 Hesitant approach to new technologies

The online world is constantly changing. New technologies and thus new forms of publication are constantly being developed. Companies that recognize a technological trend faster than the competition are ahead in the race for user attention.

#1 Trend: Video

Video is increasingly dominating the use of today's media. In addition, a clear trend toward moving images can be seen worldwide. And the numbers speak for themselves. For example, the company Cisco has forecast that 80 percent of all data traffic will be attributable to video in 2019.

But this is not the only reason why it is promising to focus on video. Consider smartphone usage. Many news services now produce videos with subtitles. This means that the key messages can be understood even if the user has turned off the sound on his device.

Furthermore, a video can be a great way to summarize and even emphasize the most important statements of your article. In short, a video strongly enhances an article with visual information.

#2 Trend: Text-to-Speech Technology

The second major development at the moment is text-to-speech (TTS) technology. This has taken another huge step forward this year, particularly with Amazon Polly. Readers can now have entire articles read out to them automatically - and now in truly audible quality.

This also means that content no longer has to be recorded by professionals. Neural Text-To-Speech (NTTS) technology even allows texts to be output in natural-sounding speech that is generated artificially. Thanks to NTTS, spoken content offers completely new possibilities for preparing news or longer reports.

Smart speakers such as Amazon's Echo, Google Home or Hello Magenta are also becoming increasingly popular among consumers. The number of users of these devices in Germany, the UK and the USA has doubled in the past year.

Some users now even use them to control their lights and heating, get the latest weather forecast and receive reminders about important appointments. Increasingly, however, many are also listening to the latest news and media offerings.

#3 Trend: Artificial Intelligence

Finally, artificial intelligence is the third trend that is rightly making headlines around the world right now. Machine learningand predictive analytics usehistorical data to make predictions about what consumers want. For example, the Australian pay-TV broadcaster Foxtel was able to significantly increase its sales with artificial intelligence.

Foxtel has developed an AI solution called Monty, which has given its station a double-digit increase in weekly revenue growth.

Meanwhile, more and more service providers are appearing on the market, so no company is forced to develop its own AI systems to test the technology.

2 Expandable implementation of advertising models

Of course, advertising will remain an indispensable source of revenue for media companies for the foreseeable future. Readers' willingness to pay for content is simply not yet as pronounced as would be necessary to fully cover the costs.

Classic display ads, however, are still perceived as annoying by many users. Using browser extensions, many readers filter out ads from the editorial offerings. Native ads can counteract this. However, this model cannot be scaled at will.

In the case of sponsored content, i.e. a classic advertorial, the advertiser rarely supplies the content. The human resources in the editorial department are therefore tied up in producing the content and are thus lacking elsewhere.

This also applies to the production of content that contains affiliate links. While product reviews and list articles can be produced quickly, they are not suitable for every medium, according to Reuters' Digital News Report.

But there is another way. Because more and more media companies are also offering their customers direct ordering from their own online stores as part of their digital publishing strategy. The keyword here is direct to consumer. Since there is no need for intermediaries here, the companies benefit from higher margins. They also retain full control over their brands.

This is precisely where Buzzfeed comes in with a hybrid model. The company specifically approaches brand manufacturers to work with them to develop products that are ideally suited to its own readership. It's an approach that promises higher revenue shares than traditional ads. For example, Buzzfeed CEO, Jonah Peretti revealed in an interview that his company will generate over $100 million in revenue in 2019 from this very business, which did not even exist two years earlier.

Digital Publishing Strategy: Buzzfeed has its own online store

But such a model is inconceivable without knowledge of your own readership and users. So your digital publishing strategy needs in-depth analysis.

3 Superficial data analysis

Digital content has an enormous advantage for media companies. What advantage? They provide data on a permanent basis.

Every page view of a reader, every click in an app leaves traces. Analyzing this information reveals a lot about what customers want. Content producers thus hold a real treasure in their hands. However, I remain convinced in this regard: publishers are still too rarely aware of this.

Every media company is likely to be using an analytics solution such as Google Analytics or Google Firebase by now. But most stop right at the beginning at this point in their digital publishing strategy. Because unique users and page views are often still the only trump cards in too many media documents that are supposed to convince the advertising industry to book them.

Google Firebase as analysis solution in your Digital Publishing Strategy

The Page Views metric is already very old and not very precise. It is no different from the classic CPM model established for magazines, newspapers, and television.

However, this basic parameter no longer does justice to the modern media world. Media companies should therefore focus on better indicators. For example, reader reading time, activity, and loyalty have much greater significance. Not least because the evaluation of these figures provides ideas for new content and even the orientation of one's own medium.

The figures can also be supplemented further: For example, via own surveys and information from the customer database. This results in an increasingly accurate picture of the users. This result forms the basis for valuable personalized content.

Another approach: Why not turn the data obtained into content yourself? What attitude can be gleaned from user comments, for example? Can a story be made out of it?

So data analyses are much more than just looking at access figures.

4 Weak social media strategy

On the websites of almost all media houses today, the phrase "Follow us" can be found somewhere. Next to it, of course, are the familiar icons of social networks.

Unfortunately, however, the content in most channels does not always make people want to take up this offer.

Posts are often limited to pointing out new articles. Users may then react to this on Facebook or Twitter. But there is rarely a real reaction in the form of likes or comments.

What is the reason for this lack of engagement? I think the power of social media is still too often underestimated. A fatal misjudgment. In May 2019, for example, Digiday magazine surveyed 124 publishers and media companies on the top three traffic suppliers for their offerings.

The numbers are clear. The top 5 reader sources are:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn

Mark Thompson, the CEO of the New York Times even sees Facebook as a perfect match:

"Mainly, we use Facebook to distribute our content as widely as possible. But we also use it to promote subscriptions. And we're absolutely happy with it."

Instagram is currently developing into a real shooting star, establishing itself even more strongly as a source of traffic. This is confirmed not least by figures from the MPA (Association of Magazine Media). According to these, Instagram has the highest growth rates among social media.

According to the MPA Instagram, the highest growth rates among social media

The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and Scientific American each increased the number of their followers on this platform by 6% in the period under review. The New Yorker now has 3.6 million followers on Instagram alone.

Social media is not just a broadcasting channel. In order to gain users there on a lasting basis, three factors are particularly important.

  1. Regularity: Only when users know that there are ongoing interesting posts and links, the so-called FOMO effect (Fear of missing out) occurs. You don't create the fear of missing out by having one post a day that links to an article, but by having a much higher frequency and especially interesting posts.
  2. Interaction: It's not just about reporting news from your own offering. Users also need to be involved. If there are comments on a posting on Facebook or Twitter, then you should also react and respond to them. Smaller surveys or competitions can also activate users.
  3. Knowledge of the platform: Users have different expectations on each channel. High-quality and surprising photos score on Instagram. Strategies and high-quality tips are more likely to be expected on a business network like LinkedIn. On the other hand, content that is distributed in a scattershot manner does not promise much success on social media channels.

Furthermore, the use of social media is also excellent for your cutting-edge reporting. The American news channel CNN stands for this expertise worldwide like no other, for which the use seems to be very worthwhile.

"If we didn't see a positive impact on audience engagement, we certainly wouldn't be investing our time like this."

Ashley Codianni, Executive Producer of Social and Emerging Media at CNN.

5 Use of obsolete software

Social media, video, audio and text production: Today, your editors have to prepare their content for a wide range of channels. This requires technology and, above all, a specialized CMS that supports them effectively. This is the only way to leave more time for the creative production of your content.

But it is precisely media companies with a long print tradition that (unintentionally) put obstacles in the way of their editorial teams on this path. How can this be? Well, it's not least due to out-of-the-box in-house developments.

The editorial team wants a blog? Instead of relying on special software like WordPress, money and personnel went into the development of an in-house module. Although this works smoothly with the central system, it often lags far behind special solutions.

At first glance, in-house developments seem to offer the advantage of keeping all the strings in one hand. But in fact, they are a dead end in the long run.

Modern publishing solutions simplify the production of content for different channels. They make your journalists' work easier, because they were developed precisely with modern and shared workflows in mind.

"In the beginning, all titles were moved to a common CMS. Then the content has been consistently moved from outdated servers to a cloud."

Christoph Schmitz, Product Owner at Aller Media, on the transformation at his company.

This step is worthwhile from two points of view. First, your various distribution channels are used in a way that is appropriate for the media. And second, the productivity of your editorial teams increases significantly.


A digital publishing strategy must include the joy of experimentation and the quick adoption and testing of new technologies. Of course, new revenue and advertising models must also be developed on the basis of the data generated within the company.

I think that in the next few years, the most successful media companies will be those that succeed firstly in building up a loyal user base in social media and secondly in increasing the efficiency of content production using modern IT solutions.

And ideally, all of this without upsetting the established readership of their print titles.

If you'd like to learn more about standardizing your content creation for social media, read on here. Want tips tailored to your exact situation regarding your own digital publishing strategy? Then schedule a demo appointment with one of our experts today.

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