Digital Only? The Devil Is in the Details

Posted by Marianne Calihanna on Oct 31, 2012 11:41:00 AM

Digital revenue metrics for publishersDuring Hurricane Sandy this week I doubt I was the only east coast reader concerned about how I would read when the electricity went out. My Kindle and iPad were charged but I knew the iPad wouldn't last long if faced with days of lost power. My trusty Kindle would serve me well but my aggregated news on Flipboard would be missed. Power outage gave me a glimmer of hope that I could catch up on some long-form journalism in its print form (New Yorker) and plan my holiday menu (Bon Appetit). I chuckled thinking how my friend who is adamant about reading print only was not wasting mental energy on this internal discussion. Powered with candles and print, he was prepared for a lovely time. 

At a time when major publishers are selecting "digital only" as a solution to plummenting subscriptions and ad sales, the devil is in the details. Electric outages are an obvious problem and real concern if your business delivers exclusively to digital products. There's also the issue of ad revenue in the digital sphere compared with print. Data from PricewaterhouseCoopers illustrate that ad revenue from digital products will double from 2011 to 2016 and print will experience small growth. But the dollar value from print ads eclipses digital:

Current and projected ad revenue 

Now combine competition into this story. Looking at Newsweek's decision to go digital only in 2013 is somewhat shortsighted when you consider all the online competition competing for smaller digital advertising dollars. 

Digital only is not the golden ticket....yet. Publishers (media, trade, educational, STM, legal) still need a strong print presence both for the obvious reasons (national electric power grid, customer demographics) and the other obvious reasons (ad revenue, customer demographics!).

We've been conducting a year-long survey with publishers and media organizations to assess digital revenue metrics along with technology adoption decisions. So far, the majority of our respondents indicate that digital revenue is exceeding print revenue. 

publishers' projections on print v digital revenue

Does this mean these publishers are creating more digital products than print products? That answer is still to be determined. We also ask publishers to indicate all the outputs expected to be a focus in the future. At the moment both print and ebooks are tied with 88.9% of respondents indicating that print and digital books are important. Web products have a slight increase at 91.1%.

publishing output formats

Our big takeaway from the preliminary results to the 2012 publishers' survey do indicate something we've maintained for years. No matter your revenue streams from published products, a single-source multi-channel publishing process is key to satisfying customers along with the bottom line.

As you're cleaning up from the hurricane and recharging your electronic devices think about how your organization is setting itself up and share your input. We'll reveal all the results to this survey in an upcoming webinar in December. 

Publishers' Survey

Let us know the devilish details that your organization faces.

Topics: content management for publishers, digital publishing strategy, digital revenue metrics

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