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5 Reasons Why Your Digital Publishing Strategy Doesn’t (yet) Work

Timo Lamour

Timo Lamour

5 reasons why your digital publishing strategy doesn't (yet) work

When it comes to role models for a great digital publishing strategy, the same names keep popping up.

What does this mean? Obviously, some companies have been more successful than others in adapting to changes in their readership. However, the vast majority of publishers are disappointed with their own digital publishing strategy.

In my experience, at least one of the following 5 areas needs improvement, if your online content either attracts too few readers or makes too little turnover.

1 Hesitant approach to new technologies

The online world is changing continually. New technologies and thus new publishing opportunities are constantly being developed. Companies that recognise a technological trend faster than the competition are far ahead in the race for user attention.

#1 Trend: Video

Video is increasingly dominating the use of today’s media. In addition, there is a clear worldwide trend towards moving images. The figures speak for themselves. Cisco, for example, has forecast that 80% of all data traffic in 2019 will be attributable to video.

But this is not the only reason why it is promising to rely on video. Think of smartphone use. Many news services now produce videos with subtitles. This way, the core messages are understood even if the user has switched off the sound on his or her device.

Furthermore, a video can summarise and even underline the most important statements of your article. In short, a video greatly enhances an article with visual information.

#2 Trend: Text-to-Speech Technology

The second major development at the moment is Text-to-Speech (TTS) technology. This technology has made a huge step forward this year, especially with Amazon Polly. Readers can now have entire articles read out to them automatically in a quality that is really worth listening to.

This also means that content no longer has to be recorded by professionals. The Neural Text-To-Speech (NTTS) technology even allows the output of texts in natural-sounding language, which is, however, artificially generated. That’s why NTTS offers completely new possibilities to prepare news or longer reports.

In addition, smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo, Google Home or Hello Magenta are becoming increasingly popular among consumers. The number of users of these devices in Germany, Great Britain and the USA doubled last year.

Some adopters even use it to control lighting and heating, get the latest weather reports and remind themselves of important dates. Increasingly, however, many also listen to current news and media offers.

#3 Trend: Artificial Intelligence

Finally, artificial intelligence is the third trend that is rightly making headlines worldwide. Machine learning and predictive analytics use historical data to forecast consumer preferences. The Australian pay-TV channel Foxtel, for example, was able to significantly increase its reach with artificial intelligence.


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Foxtel has developed an AI solution called Monty, which has given its broadcaster a double-digit increase in weekly sales growth.

In the meantime, more and more service providers are appearing on the market, so that no company is forced to develop its own AI systems in order to test this technology.

2  Expandable implementation of advertising models

Of course, advertising will remain an indispensable source of revenue for media companies in the foreseeable future. The willingness of readers to pay for content is simply not yet as strong as it would be necessary to fully cover costs.

However, many users still find classic display ads annoying. Using browser extensions, many readers even filter ads from the editorial offers. Native ads can counteract this. However, this model cannot be scaled at will.

In the case of sponsored content, i.e. a classic advertorial, the advertiser rarely supplies the content. The production talent in the editorial department is therefore tied up with the creation of the advertorial and can’t be available elsewhere.

This also applies to the production of content containing affiliate links. Although product reviews and list articles can be produced quickly, according to Reuters’ Digital News Report they are not suitable for every medium.

But there is another way. More and more media companies are turning to Direct to Consumer selling – offering their customers the opportunity to order directly from their own online shop as part of their digital publishing strategy. As there is no middleman, companies benefit from higher margins. They also retain full control over their brands.

This is exactly where BuzzFeed comes in with a hybrid model. The company specifically partners with brand manufacturers in order to develop products that optimally fit their own readership. An approach that promises higher sales shares than classic ads. BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti revealed in an interview that in 2019 his company will generate more than $100 million in sales with this business unit, which did not even exist two years earlier.

Digital Publishing Strategy: Buzzfeed has its own online shop

But such a model is inconceivable without knowledge of one’s own readership and users. So your digital publishing strategy needs in-depth analysis.

3  Superficial data analysis

Digital content has an enormous advantage for media companies. Which one? They consistently provide data. 

Every page view by your reader, every click in an app leaves traces. The analysis of this information reveals a lot about the customers’ wishes. Content producers thus hold a true treasure in their hands. However, I am convinced: publishers are usually not yet aware of this.

Every media company can now use an analysis solution such as Google Analytics or Google Firebase. Most of them, however, remain in their digital publishing strategy right at the beginning. Because in too many media documents, unique users and page views are often still the only trump cards that are supposed to convince the advertising industry to sign a deal.

Google Firebase as analysis solution in your Digital Publishing Strategy

And yet the measure of page views is pretty old and not very precise. The parameter does not differ from the classic CPM model long established for magazines, newspapers and television.

However, this basic parameter is no longer the most crucial one in a modern media world. Media houses should therefore focus on better indicators. For example, reading duration, activity and loyalty of readers is much more important. Not least because the evaluation of these figures provides ideas for new content.

The figures can also be complemented further: for example, through your own surveys and information from your customer database. This results in an increasingly accurate picture of your target user. The results in turn form the basis for valuable personalised content.

Another approach: why not transform the obtained data into content itself? Which attitude can be read from user comments, for example? Can a story be made out of it?

The bottom line is that data analysis is much more than just looking at the number of hits.

4  Weak social media strategy

On the websites of almost all media houses you can find the sentence “Follow us” somewhere today. Next to it, of course, are the familiar icons of their social networks. 

Unfortunately, the content on most platforms does not always make you want to accept this offer. Often the posts are limited to pointing to new articles. Users are then allowed to react to this on Facebook or Twitter. But only rarely is there a real engagement in the form of likes or way better yet, comments.

What is the main reason for the lack of engagement? I think the power of social media is too often underestimated. A fatal misjudgement. In May 2019, the magazine Digiday surveyed 124 publishers and media houses on the three largest traffic suppliers for their digital offers.

The numbers are clear. The top 5 traffic sources are:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn

No wonder that Mark Thompson, CEO of the New York Times, sees Facebook as a perfect match.

“We mainly use Facebook to spread our content as widely as possible. But we also use it to promote subscriptions. And we are absolutely happy with it.”

Instagram is currently developing into a real shooting star and is thus establishing itself even more strongly as a source of traffic. This is confirmed not least by figures from the MPA (Association of Magazine Media). According to this, Instagram has the highest growth rates among the social media platforms.

According to the MPA Instagram, the highest growth rates among social media

The New Yorker, New York Magazine and Scientific American each increased the number of their followers on this platform by 6% in the period under review. The New Yorker, for example, now reaches 3.6 million followers on Instagram alone.

However, social media is not just a broadcasting channel. In order to consistently attract users, three factors are particularly important.

  1. Regularity: only if users know that there are constantly interesting contributions and articles, the so-called FOMO effect (Fear of missing out) occurs. The fear of missing out is not generated by one posting per day that refers to an article, but by a much higher frequency and especially interesting articles.
  2. Interaction: it is not only about reporting news from your own perspective. Users must also be involved. If there are comments on a post on Facebook or Twitter, then what? React immediately and reply to them. Smaller surveys or sweepstakes can also lead to a more engaged user base.
  3. Knowledge of the platform: users have different expectations and intentions on each channel. High-quality and surprising photos score on Instagram. Strategies and quality tips are more likely to succeed on a business network like LinkedIn.

Furthermore, the use of social media is also ideal for your breaking news reporting. The American news broadcaster CNN stands for this expertise like no other in the world. And at CNN it’s seems to be way worth the effort.

“If we wouldn’t see a positive impact on audience engagement, we certainly wouldn’t invest our time that way.”

Ashley Codianni, Executive Producer of Social and Emerging Media at CNN

5  Use of obsolete software

Social media, video, audio and article production: your editors have to prepare their content for a wide range of channels. This requires technology and, above all, a specialised CMS that supports them effectively. Only then will they have more time for the creative production of your content.

But especially media houses with a long print tradition (unintentionally) put obstacles in the way of their editors. How is that possible? Well, it’s not least due to degenerate in-house developments.

The editorial staff would like to have a blog? Instead of relying on special software such as WordPress, money and human resources went into the development of their own module. Although this works smoothly with the central system, special solutions often lag far behind.

At first glance, such developments seem to offer the advantage of keeping everything in-house. However, they are often a dead end in the long run.

Modern publishing solutions simplify the production of content for different channels. They facilitate the work of your journalists, because they were developed with modern and shared workflows in mind.

“In the beginning, all titles were transferred to a joint CMS. Then the content has been consistently moved from outdated servers to a cloud.”

Christoph Schmitz, Product Owner at Aller Media, sums up the transformation process in his company.

This step is worthwhile mainly from two points of view. Firstly, your various distribution channels will now be used in a way more suitable manner. And secondly, the productivity of your editorial staff will increase significantly.


Your digital publishing strategy should include the joy of experimenting and the rapid adoption and testing of new technologies. Of course, new revenue and advertising models should also be developed on the basis of the data generated within the company.

I think those media houses that will be most successful in the coming years will be those that succeed firstly in establishing a loyal user base on social media and secondly in increasing the efficiency of content production using modern IT solutions.

And ideally all this without offending the established readership of their print titles.

If you would like to learn more about standardising your content creation for social media, read on here. Would you like tips on your own digital publishing strategy tailored to your situation? Then reach out directly to one of our experts today.

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