Online editions are not just a virtual version of your print publication. They are a major opportunity for advertising dollars and subscription profits, and they also provide your audience with the access they expect. Print is and should be the focus for niche publishers, but not making use of online editions is the same as leaving blank ad spaces in the print; it is losing money you should make.
Sidenote about online editions and publishing content online
Before going into more, there is a huge point that needs to be made clear. Online editions and posting your content as unique articles on a website are not mutually exclusive. In fact, doing both is highly recommended. This is because online editions are their own entity, in the same way the printed publication is a standalone entity. All the contents, the advertising, and everything related to monetizing it is inside the online edition. When you take individual content out of the print or online edition and publish it on a website, that too becomes its own entity, which can have completely different advertisements and audiences. The more forms of distribution you have of the same information, the more audiences you can develop and the more ad spaces you have to leverage.
Now to online editions!
It is like having two publications instead of one
Your print publication has a specific circulation and distribution. You print it, organize it by who it goes to or where it needs to go, it gets shipped, and then it arrives. At that point, people read it and enjoy it and you have done your job. The online edition offers the same. The only difference is that the “who” the circulation goes to and the “distribution” to that circulation are different.
The who for an online edition can have the same demographic and geographic audience as the print, but the difference is where they are looking for content. Print readers want print. Some may also enjoy the digital option, but most seek the print for a reason; they prefer it. That means that, if you are only doing a print publication, you are missing half of your ideal audience. Having an online edition, even if it is 100% identical to the print, will immediately increase your circulation and help you reach even more of your ideal audience.
Also, online editions do not have to be carbon -copies of their printed counterparts. Sure, they will likely share a lot of editorials. They will likely share a cover. Even the non-editorial content, like an editor’s note or house ad, will likely be the same. However, you can run different covers (which you can charge for), different internal ads, and even unique content specific to either the online edition or the print. Essentially, if you want, you can have two publications, each distributed on a different medium, that share enough to make it easy on the publisher, but differ enough that you can sell them as unique from one another.
Start selling subscriptions without changing the “free print” concept
At the end of the day, publishers are publishing for two reasons: to inform the audience, and to make money. The content takes care of the informing part, so that just leaves the making money part. Advertisements are the most functional and lucrative option, but subscriptions are equally as viable. Now that does not mean they will replace ads as the means to keep a publication afloat, but it does mean they can pad the bottom line. The problem is that with the internet and the demand for content by all audiences, many publishers decided to rely on ads alone, and give away the publication for free.
Problem is not entirely the right word. There is nothing wrong with a publication that does not charge a circulation. However, it does mean not making money when you could be. Also, once you give it away for free, it becomes very difficult to shift to charging for it down the road … at least on the same medium. As stated earlier, print and online editions of a publication are separate entities. One is a physical commodity with content “X.” The other is a virtual commodity with content “Y.” If you make them differ just enough, or you provide uniqueness in the form of medium-specific content or covers or ads, they can be “sold” as different publications.
If the print is free to receive, keep it that way. For the luxury of accessing the content through an online edition, charge a subscription or membership registration fee. Or create an online edition application for mobile use and charge for it. Either option allows you to monetize the publication without jeopardizing a current situation where a publication is free.
Creating an online edition is incredibly easy
Two of the biggest concerns for a publisher are time and money. With all the time and money focused on the print, how can you dedicate more towards an online edition? The first reason to do so is profits. You spend money to make money, and investing in an online edition can bring in profits. You just need to make sure you approach it correctly. That is where time is a factor. Even with a majority, if not all of the online edition, being shared with the print publication, it takes time to upload and edit and moderate and all the other factors.
So take it out-of-house. There are any number of softwares that make creating an online edition easy. Most offer a hands-on package where you provide the final file, and they handle the rest. In fact, almost all commercial magazine printers have partnerships with an online editing software. This means you can get your print and online editions from the same people, and often get a discount on one by also doing the other. Publication Printers Corp. has an entire team that handles digital editions and handles the labor for you.
If you don’t have online editions yet, ask yourself these questions. Why am I passing up the opportunity for easy profits? Do I want to reach my entire niche audience, not just the print-readers? Who do I already work with that can do it for me?
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