A large number of publishers are looking to multi-channel their printed products into a blend of print and digital. And, not surprisingly, a large number of content creators are entering the digital realm without any physical ties to the printed medium. The former are typically attempting to brush their content on the largest canvas. The latter are generally hoping to build a foundation without necessarily digging so deep that they can’t climb out.And with that said, there are a number of digital edition publishing solutions to consider. Some solutions are paid, some are cost-effective and some are even offered free of charge. As Bob and now Drew would agree the price is right but it is necessary to consider the limitations to determine 'Is free an Issue?'

1. Is streaming video/media an Issue? There are a number of reports that indicate that streaming video ads are increasingly gaining the edge in terms of online consumer engagement. Are advertisers able to integrate commercials, product videos, radio ads, or other streaming media into the digital publication to maximize their exposure? More importantly, is this additional source of ad revenue offered to advertisers?

2. Is enhanced content an Issue? Enhanced content may include photo images that were not included in the front page story solely because there was not enough real estate available on the cover. Adding additional images via an embedded slide show not only provides more ‘story’ for the reader but it also appeases the photo journalist whose artwork is often wasted. Or, additional content may be in the form of an ‘Article Link’ that allows a reader to capture ‘more of the story’.

3. Are direct leads an Issue? There is often a dis-connect between a digital reader and a digital advertiser. A reader can be linked to an advertisers website and click-throughs can be reported but that doesn’t necessarily generate leads. What if a customizable Call Back Card was placed directly on an advertisers image? If a reader is interested in the product or service, they can click on the form, fill out their information, and the advertiser will receive the request for information in their email inbox. This provides a direct interaction between advertiser and reader that most often results in an advertiser reporting the interaction to the publisher before the opposite has a chance to occur.

4. Are custom or specialty pages an Issue? Often publications make use of a variety of custom or specialty pages to differentiate certain content from the norm. Specialty pages such as belly bands, gatefolds, blow-ins, barn doors and foldouts are excellent opportunities to highlight an advertiser or content but are often neglected in digital editions simply because the capability is not available.

5. Is branding an Issue? It takes a very long time to build a successful brand. And most content creators are very protective of that brand. So much so, that in order to promote outside products in that brand a client is required to pay for the space that they would like to occupy. Why is a digital publishing vendor excused from paying for exposure? If a publisher is willing to expose their dedicated digital reader base to their digital publishing vendor at no cost does that suggest that their digital advertisers should be afforded the same luxury? Whose brand is being promoted?

6. Is digital edition ad revenue an Issue? A digital edition should provide a source of additional advertising revenue. Being able to offer advertiser’s more than just the static image in the digital edition is paramount. See this previous blog for ideas on how to generate additional ad revenue in your digital edition using Flip Page Publishing’s customizable options and tools. CLICK HERE! Does it hurt your ability to earn ad revenue by using free software? Are advertiser’s less inclined to pay for digital editions ads if it requires no additional cost to create?

7. Is generating revenue via paid subscriptions an Issue? Print subscriptions are a necessary source of revenue for many publications. Too often, that same content that readers considered worthy of payment in print format is provided free in digital format. Worst case scenario, why not offer a print/digital bundle to subscribers rather than simply provide the digital content for free to all readers? The reasons vary but there are definitely cases where the perception was that it is difficult to integrate or too costly to offer paid subscriptions for digital edition content. This is simply not true

8. Is product support an Issue? There is nothing more frustrating than having a question and not being able to get an answer. Sometimes waiting for a new feature to be added can be maddening. Maybe it is just a case of having a really unique idea from an advertiser shot down because of lack of flexibility in the current product. Or maybe it is due to the fact that this digital edition isn’t optimized for Apple’s mobile products when the other one is...

9. Is mobile optimization an Issue? Digital publishing has witnessed exponential growth recently and one of the leading causes of that growth is the advance of mobile products on the market. Larger screens on smartphones and tablets, increased connection speeds and freely available public wi-fi are driving the mobile web. The growth in mobile web usage is also leading to a growth in mobile platforms and operating systems. Keeping a digital edition accessible on all of the different platforms and operating systems is crucial.

10. Are native Apps an Issue? Native Apps have a market. A big one. According to Apple, as of March 5, 2012 there have been 25 billion App downloads across 315 million iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users in 123 countries. That’s just Apple’s piece of the pie. Include Google’s Android Market and Amazon’s Kindle market and the figures must be staggering. It is well worth the low cost of entry to enter these markets and place some bait on the end of the line to see if you can generate some nibbles.

11. Are additional features an Issue? There is a lot of functionality available in a great digital publishing software provider. They carry large tool belts that are bound to lead to early arthritis. Providing all of these tools is necessary to help make each publisher’s product as customizable as possible. Refer to our Digital Brochure to see what can be created with digital publishing software that rivals Tim Allen’s.

12. Are margin ads an Issue? It may just be a simple ad in the side margin of a publication. But, it exists, quietly hoping to draw your reader away from your content and into someone else’s. We have clearly identified that ads in a publication require payment but why do ads outside a publication populate at no additional cost? The ad’s content is tied closely into the content in your publication as well. Should the adage ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer’ ring as true as it does? We tend to think it shouldn’t.

Digital Publishing is an effective method of conveying a message to a growing group of digital content consumers. There is no question that reaching out to this growing reader base is essential. Determining how to reach this audience and what solution will create the greatest return for my investment must also be considered. With those factors in mind, I ask ‘Is free the issue?’