E-paper: How digital news is becoming a revenue driver

Gundel Henke

The publishing industry has always been characterized by groundbreaking innovations. From the invention of printing to the emergence and proliferation of social media platforms. Publishers have had to respond to technological innovations and rapid changes in business models.

The publishing industry has always been characterized by groundbreaking innovations. From the invention of book printing to the emergence and spread of social media platforms. Publishers have had to respond to technological innovations and rapid changes in business models.

This is especially true today. Digital disruption has caused considerable pain for "traditional" publishers, who have relied primarily on print sales. For years, publishers could rely on ad and other advertising revenue. In recent years, however, publishers have found that these revenue sources are drying up. With fewer and fewer readers consuming printed newspapers, both small and large publishers have had to find new sources of revenue to sustain their business.

Fortunately, publishers can turn to e-paper to increase their revenue. From the smallest local newspapers to the largest and most well-known publications in the industry, publishers have an excellent opportunity to generate more revenue and offer their readers an alternative reading experience.

What is an e-paper?

When discussing e-papers and their benefits, it is important to take a step back and clarify what an e-paper is. You can think of an e-paper as the electronic edition of a physical newspaper. It is as if the reader is consuming a physical newspaper, but in digital form. The German Informationsgemeinschaft zur Feststellung der Verbreitung von Werbeträgern (IVW) goes one step further and describes an e-paper as "the digital edition of a press publication that is identical in content and layout to its printed counterpart."

E-papers are usually available as a PDF version of a print edition. This is self-explanatory, as publishers create optimized PDF versions and then distribute these e-papers at their own discretion. Readers can access e-papers from their desktops, laptops, tablets or smartphones. Although the exact design depends on the device the reader is using, e-papers essentially attempt to replicate a physical newspaper, but in digital form.

E-paper and its advantages

With this understanding in mind, you can probably imagine the various benefits that e-papers offer.

First of all, e-papers offer an additional distribution channel for publishers. This represents another opportunity to deliver high-quality journalism in a different format. The impact is significant. Publishers are picking up readers where they are. The smartphone has become the most important device for news consumption, and publishers who ignore this fact are missing out on additional readers (and revenue).

E-papers can increase a publisher's revenue and profit. We'll go into more detail about the revenue benefits, but the general principle is that e-papers can open up new audiences and monetization opportunities that increase revenue. In terms of the bottom line, e-papers can help publishers save costs. While the production and distribution of printed copies is relatively cost-intensive, publishers can produce e-papers at a relatively low cost. This is an important point, especially in today's world where the creation and distribution of print products has become enormously expensive due to drastically increased paper and gas prices.

The e-paper offers readers many advantages. On the one hand, readers always have their newspaper with them, even when on vacation. On the other hand, the e-paper impresses with its faster availability. It also saves space, is environmentally friendly and reduces waste production.

After all, e-papers have limited content. Put simply, many people in our society are tired of news. The sheer flood of news that hits us all every day is too much for many readers. The limited content of an e-paper is actually an advantage in these circumstances, as it gives readers a concise overview of the news they want to consume.

Who reads e-papers anyway?

E-papers are not just a theoretical concept that can add value for publishers around the world. E-papers have become increasingly popular in recent years. This is particularly true for the DACH region. In Germany, for example, studies have shown that 86% of respondents want digital content from their region. As for the e-papers themselves, 92% of German respondents believe that their local e-paper is an integral part of their community. After reading this e-paper, 82% believe they are well informed.

In general, e-paper readers tend to be younger. Younger people tend to prefer digital content to paper content. This can be seen in the data. According to a study by Reuters, 47% of under 35s turn to their mobile device first to read news. This compares to 28% of 35-64 year olds. Simply put, younger readers expect to consume the news on their own terms, and these readers grew up in an era where they could access all types of news at the click of a button. They didn't have to wait for the physical delivery of a morning newspaper to catch up on the news. Instead, they could access and consume virtually all media content from the moment they woke up until they went to bed.

Ultimately, publishers who invest in e-papers can appeal to both older and younger readers. Whether it's older readers who are more tech-savvy than their peers or younger readers who want to consume news no matter where they are, e-papers can offer great value to all types of readers and audiences.

How e-papers can increase sales

With this understanding of e-papers in mind, let us now turn to the question of how publishers can use e-papers to generate additional revenue.

First of all, e-papers offer the opportunity to generate more revenue through subscriptions. We are already seeing a clear trend in Europe. Germany is one of the countries where publishers have started to take advantage of this monetization opportunity. In the second quarter of 2021, German e-paper subscriptions increased by just over 18% compared to the second quarter of 2020. This resulted in a total circulation of more than two million copies of e-papers per publication day. More than 1.2 million of these e-paper copies were obtained via a subscription.

Revenues from e-paper subscriptions are particularly attractive because the marginal costs are extremely low. Publishers simply need to find a way to design their e-paper and distribute it. While the design may involve some costs, distribution is essentially free. With millions of private individuals in Germany and the DACH region already subscribing to e-papers, there is a promising development ahead.

In addition to subscription revenues, e-paper also offers publishers another opportunity to place advertisements. These ads can come from customers who already buy ads in a print edition, or from customers who only want to buy ads in the e-paper. Either way, you create a digital platform that you can monetize in the short and long term.

Finally, an e-paper can be an opportunity to gain additional exposure for your other revenue streams. For example, if you are hosting a conference or event, you can use an e-paper to draw attention to that event. The e-paper is basically a free marketing tool that you can use to generate revenue in your other business areas.

Seize the opportunity

E-papers offer a huge opportunity for everything from the smallest publishers to the largest publications in the world. If you want to capitalize on e-papers, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, don't think of your e-paper as a backup or contingency plan. If you neglect your e-paper, you run the risk of giving your readers an inferior experience. On the other hand, prioritizing your e-paper will significantly increase your chances of success.

Don't hesitate to hire professional designers. Even if you may already have your own design talents, you should find someone who can create a beautiful e-paper for your readers. The e-paper also needs to be error-free and easy to consume. Paying attention to the details here will definitely pay off.

And finally, don't be afraid to be innovative. Your e-paper doesn't have to look exactly like your print edition. You can experiment and present your content in many different formats. Who knows, you might create an e-paper that is more compelling or more popular than your print edition!

Ultimately, every publisher should follow the rise of e-papers closely. They are on the rise and have what it takes to increase your company's revenue. The best time to take advantage of them is right now.

Do you have questions about the e-paper or how you can publish your print editions in the form of an e-paper? We will be happy to help you and show you how to use the e-paper as a sales driver.

Not sure if Purple suits you?

Or you have individual requirements?
We will be happy to advise you.
Kevin Kallenbach
Head of Sales