Publishing - Then and Now: Format

As a way of addressing the issues facing many publishers I am doing a series of posts looking at the changes between the print-only days of old, and the online publishing times we live in. This is a topic with much scope for discussion and in this series I will be looking at the challenges and advantages that each medium presents by breaking them down and considering three elements - format, audience, and revenue.

First up is the format!

Advantages of online publishing

The major benefit of online publishing is flexibility. Publishers can easily upload content whenever it becomes available without having to wait for the next hard copy to be published. This is particularly advantageous in today’s fast paced consumer climate where it is essential to stay current and where content is often delivered to us in real time.

Online publishing also reduces the cost of print and distribution and makes last minute editorial changes possible. In fact many of the restrictions of print media, such as page limitations are no longer applicable within digital formats. Publishers benefit from reduced production costs and the consumer benefits from ease of access and added content value.

Content

Another major benefit of this format is the wealth of media that can be utilised in online publishing. Color images are expensive to print, however online images are standard and cost effective. Online publishing makes it easier to utilise multiple mediums such as audio and video; changing the way readers consume content. Information is now more accessible as a result of merging formats and the popularity of multiple devices allows information to be more easily digested on the move.

The options available for content delivery help online publishers build a more personal relationship with their readers.  Dynamic media platforms make for a more interactive experience because they offer elements such as reader comment sections and content sharing across social media. It’s not just publishers who are generating content anymore, readers are encouraged into a dialog with the author and other readers join the conversation. This interaction creates a network of engaged viewers and changes the very nature of original content consumption.

So, are there any advantages in print publishing?

The print format does still have its advantages both in terms of aesthetic and tradition.

Buying the morning paper has always been and still is for many, part of the daily routine. Whether you attack the sports section first, read from the front, or go right for the juicy opinion piece somewhere in the middle; it’s a force of habit that’s comfortable, enjoyable, and tangible.

While audio and video offer fantastic new engagement and interaction possibilities, it remains to be seen whether ‘traditional’ consumers really want that level of sensory overload with their coffee and toast. Some users may quite simply be bewildered by sites with ever-changing landing pages making it harder for them to find what they want.

Furthermore, formatting online also presents its own issues. It’s crucial for publishers to ensure the user experience is streamlined for access on PC, laptop, tablet and mobile devices. Column width, font size, resolution and navigation all become very important to how information is conveyed to a reader. It matters little how great content is if the reader can’t view it properly.

While print media may still hold sway for traditional readers, the online format of publishing is clearly the preferred delivery method of current and future consumers. The flexibility to edit and upload content at little or no extra cost as well its ability to adapt vastly popular formats such as audio and video make it the critical next move for publishers who want to realistically and successfully compete in the market.

For more on conflicting demands facing publishers, see our blog: Editorial or Advertising - which should come first?

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