What Digital Publishing Means To Marketers In 2011

by Adam Helweh |
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If I had to pick 3 things I am most bullish about in 2011 digital publishing would certainly be on that list. Sure, ebook readers and even publications in PDF format have been around for some time now, but this year we will take it more than a little step further. A convergence of platforms, devices, and technologies have created an opportunity for digital publications such as ebooks and highly interactive magazines to go mainstream. All of this sets the stage for content creators and advertisers to join in the fray. Read on for a few reasons why I think the digital publishing space is where you should not only watch, but possibly investing some marketing dollars over the next year.

Amazon’s Kindle ebook device has been around for a few years now and has become Amazon’s most popular selling item in company history. The recent price drop of their low model Kindle made an immediate difference in sales. Amazon has not been the only ebook reader on the market over the last couple years, but pairing it with Amazon’s enormous book selection it is hard not to dish out the $139. Top that off with the incredibly smart move to make Kindle less a device and more a platform across many devices (iPhone, Android, Desktop, & iPad) and you give consumers tons of incentive to dive in. With more than just the Kindle in this category, the holidays found ebook readers a top gadget choice. Barnes & Noble’s own Nook ebook reader found itself selling decent enough. Like the Kindle, a platform of Nook apps are available for use across multiple devices.

You can’t talk about the Kindle without also mentioning the aluminum and glass elephant in the room, the iPad. Released in April 2010, it has gone on to sell around 7 million units and stay at the top of most gadget wish lists during the holiday season. Apple has feeds it books with its iBook store or you can download the free Kindle app and read books purchased on Amazon. One of the most exciting things about the iPad is not the ebooks, but the interactive digital publications like Richard Branson’s “Project” Magazine which leverages the full multi-media capabilities of the device (see the latest interactive cover below) and is only available on the iPad. Following suit, it is widely expected that News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch will announce an iPad only news publication in just about a week’s time.

Driven by the iPad’s success, Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab have been developed which will surely try to compete as digital reading devices. Google also recently tossed its hat into the game with their own ebook store.

Lastly, iPad apps like Flipboard & Pulse turn your blog feeds and social content into your own personal interactive publication. There is even a WordPress plugin to make your blog behave like a native iPad app.

What does this mean for marketers?
– For those like me who are on the creative and technical side of designing these publications the process of producing one is easier than ever. Interactive publications similar to Branson’s Project Magazine are possible for more than folks who have millions of dollars to blow. Static ebooks are even less expensive to produce and work on a wider variety of devices. All of this leads to a lower barrier to entry if you have something you want to publish. Hyundai and other automobile companies are getting creative by offering their owner’s manual as an interactive app (see video below) similar to magazines.  Do you have any content or previously developed publications that could be more easily distributed in ebook form?

– The more interactive and rich the experience the more engaging your content can be. Take for instance the ads found on the Project Magazine on the iPad. Many of the ads entice you to interact and touch them. What was a ream of fancy product photos in traditional magazines now becomes a part of the content. How could your product or service come to life if advertised in a publication like this?

– Due to available internet connectivity and built in browsers on many devices digital publications can drive traffic to your online presence. Again I will point to Project Magazine. At any point in the publication you can tap an icon on the side and visit their blog where additional content is available. Some of the advertisements also allow you to step away from the content and visit their website if you choose to explore a little deeper. Try that with a your latest print issue of Cat Fancy.

– The advantage of digital distribution is one that cannot be ignored. Many folks initially complained that while ebooks were usually priced fairly in comparison to their carbon based counter parts, magazines were still just as expensive as if you went to your local supermarket and grabbed an issue. Readers could save a lot of money if they simply paid the hugely discounted subscription price for their favorite print magazine. As the leading platform, Apple’s iPad is currently lacking an easy way to charge and manage subscriptions. Rumor has it this will be changing very soon. Subscriptions mean more chances to be the center of attention each month as a new issue is delivered over the web to interested consumers. Once this is announced by Apple you can bet me 100 pennies that their competitors will make an attempt to do the same to lure publishers to their platform. How would this influence you to advertise or produce content for digital publications more consistently?

– Simply put, more devices equals more eye balls. What does this mean? Well the more devices that suport these kinds of digital publications the more likely folks will use them to consume media such as ebooks. Both the Kindle and the iPad proved that. More tablet like devices are coming.

So what do you think? Will digital publications become a popular medium for brands to be seen? Will you be allocating any of your budget to test the waters or are you ready to dive in?

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About the Author

Adam Helweh

Adam is CEO of Secret Sushi Creative Inc, a strategic design, digital and social media marketing agency. He specializes in the convergence of design and technology to provide businesses with more intelligent and interactive ways to connect with customers and grow. His clients have included Edelman, Broadcom, Stanford Federal Credit Union, the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Bunchball and others. He's also the co-host of the "SoLoMo Show", a weekly digital marketing podcast, and he has shared the stage with professionals from companies including Facebook, Virgin Airlines, Paypal, Dell and 24 Hour Fitness.