We’ve all known for some time that great content is vital for brands and their marketers. From in-flight magazines to shop floor pick-me-ups such as Topshop’s magazine, brands across the board have been producing their own publications for years now. What’s new though is the way in which readers expect to interact with these publications and consume their content.
The fact is, as mobile and smartphone usership continues to rise at an astonishing rate, both publishers and marketers need to wake up to the changing needs and behaviours of their consumers. The digital consumers of today want it all. They want their content instantly, wherever they are, and they’re still very reluctant to pay for it. If brands don’t manage to cater for these needs, someone else will swoop in and take over.
When we consider the technological paradigm shift that has taken place over the last five years, it is clear that marketers have a unique opportunity to reimagine their content channels and build stronger relationships with their audiences. There’s no half-way house to be had though; only those that are willing to get properly stuck in will truly experience the benefits.
This lies at the crux of the real issue facing our industry today: audience needs and behaviours have changed beyond all recognition, but many content owners have yet to really embrace and reflect these changes through their product offerings. Even some of the largest brands and publishers have limited their ambitions (and real investment) to low-rent PDF-based digital replicas. And while this might be a low friction, low cost, short-term incremental revenue opportunity, it is a disastrous strategy for the long term.
So, what is the real key to success? How can savvy brands give their consumers what they want sustainably?
The most obvious place to start is to deliver your content where your audience wants it. But this shouldn’t mean simply transposing a digitised page of newsprint to a mobile phone. Not only is it a lazy work-around, it’s almost impossible to read, and doesn’t make the most of the interactivity mobile devices are now capable of. You have to design the experience to fit the devices that the consumers in your market use on a daily basis.
Secondly, deliver your content when your consumers want it. A digital offering shouldn’t necessarily replicate the frequency of a print publication. Modern consumers are rarely to be found without their smartphones or tablets, which offer them instantaneous access to a world of content and information, so increasing the frequency of your content can increase reader engagement and open up new advertising opportunities.
Thirdly, deliver additional services that help you extend your brand beyond your traditional print content. Mobile devices offer a plethora of capabilities that, allied with app frameworks, allow you to build fully customised apps that engage with readers in a totally different way to print – make use of them.
Finally, do all of this in a way that will allow you to transition easily from print to digital workflows when the time comes. It might be stating the obvious, but the tools used to produce content for print were not designed for delivering digital editions across a range of platforms. The industry will benefit from embracing structured content, and responsive layouts that are designed to reflow across screen sizes and orientations – embrace it.
It is clear that there is a bright future for content. People will always want great content, and are willing to pay for it if. However, it simply isn’t enough to dip your toes in digital with low quality replica products anymore. If content owners want to avoid extinction, they need to invest properly in the technology and create bespoke digital offerings. The last thing we want to happen is for another of our proud industries to fall by the wayside…