Lessons from Publishing: How to Manage Flawless and Timely Content

SPROUT Content Contributor

Written by SPROUT Content Contributor on Wed, Oct 23, 2013

SPROUT Content is an inbound marketing agency that specializes in performance content for businesses in "unglamorous industries."

The publishing industry has long been an example for impeccable timing, organized effort and flawless delivery in content.  

booksFor years, we consumed content through books, newspapers, periodicals and magazines. Each of these publications was a result of multiple people working together applied to timeless journalism and literary practices.  

Magazines and newspapers have always been able to deliver content timely, precisely and effectively to keep readers engaged and loyal. While digital media certainly threatens to topple the traditional publishing industry, we digital content producers (that’s every business with an online presence) have a thing or two to learn from publishers.

Here are some of those lessons:

Digital is the default medium  

Most traditional publishers have opted out of the game or closed down shop. Some publishers, notably the New York Times (which went online in 1996), were forerunners in embracing change and have now adopted the Internet as their primary medium while continuing to play the old print game as long as it lasts. The momentum, however, has switched to online activity. Customers desire information for everything – from the “getting to know” research part all the way to the “buying decision.”  

For every business that hopes to gain a reasonably decent online presence, there are two important lessons:  

  • A reliable web presence is a must. If you don’t have one yet, become a customer for a change and do your research on how to get online. Compare and contrast web hosting providers that your competitors and peers use at WhoIsHostingThis, pick a web host you can trust and one that allows you to host WordPress (the de facto publishing framework) or another Content Management System of your choice with a single click or as simply as possible. Launch execution and integration of your publishing system is the key to get the ball rolling with unstoppable momentum.

  • Today, there’s the Zero Moment of Truth before every buy transaction that takes place, as Google authoritatively points out. Before every purchase, there’s a search. It’s up to businesses all over the world to feature themselves in these virtual aisles. How you show up in reviews, social proof, testimonials or other long-term trust factors is all that matters.

Getting online is more than “keeping up”  

According to IFRA’s “Where News?” Report, a media future research initiative, the newspaper industry is under tremendous pressure at the moment. The level of competition is fierce. Add decreasing profit margins, changing market developments and increasing cost of doing business, and publishers today have to do a lot more than “keeping up with changes.”  

The Internet, however, now turns out to be the revenue generator for most publishing companies. Book publishers have invaded the online book and magazine space with new formats for their traditional product. In the future, online content generation, distribution and advertising revenues will be the focus of traditional publishers.  

Planning is the key for regular publishing  

For publishers, nothing works without a plan. Starting with the niche of business operations, content generation (which also includes a network of writers, freelancers, editors and content managers), design, printing, executive management, logistics distribution, marketing and financing – the entire publishing industry is an organized effort.

The tasks that make up modern day content publishing for businesses aren’t very different from those that traditional publishers were involved in. Minus the printing and distribution, everything else is still in play. Since businesses are publishers, you’ll need a network of writers, editors, content managers and websites with effective design (stretch that to mobile responsive design to complete the distribution challenge for the Internet).  

Businesses today have to plan channels that they’d like to distribute their content on, ways to generate this content and make sure that each content asset generates what’s expected of it.  

Publishing is never-ending  

Magazines and newspapers rarely had a break. They would continue to publish and readers continue to consume. While the medium has changed, the thirst for information endures. The Internet makes this thirst go up several notches while bringing in additional methods to access content. Desktops were the norm yesterday and mobile devices have overtaken them in popularity as far as information consumption is concerned.  

That kind of demand for information stipulates a never-ending, this-will-go-on-forever kind of content development strategy for businesses, just as it was – and still is – for the publishing industry.  

The rolling juggernaut of your content volume can never stop once it starts. There are no timeframes for cutting content supply off. There’s no way you can stop publishing content mid-way. If you’re in business, you need content.  

Work on your network of content suppliers  

All big companies have suppliers. For the publishing industry, these suppliers ranged from freelance writers to third-party printing companies. There were consultants, design gurus, marketers, accountants, editors, photographers and many other professionals who were a part of the network.

You run a business, and you are into publishing. Yet, the Internet demands that you work with the same ethos of a traditional publisher. Work on your own network of service providers for your business niche.  

Consider your blog (and include all other content platforms for publishing) as your little publishing business and build a tight network of writers, photographers and designers. Your writers form the crux of your content marketing strategy while your editors will keep the content production on. Finally, spread yourself over social media channels and penetrate your networks to establish the brand authority you need for a strong web presence.

Content quality = advertising revenue  

For publishers, most of the revenue was through advertising. While most traditional publishers earned revenue to the PPV (pay per view) model owing to the popularity, authenticity and the strength of the distribution of a newspaper or a magazine. The Internet, however, has opened doors for many other revenue models today including PPC (pay per click) and CPM (cost per millennia or thousand impressions) allowing more granular control on numbers and advertising budgets for merchants looking to advertise.  

Yet, one thing remains: the quality of content. It’s still the content quality that determines readers, views, bounce rates, reader retention and many other metrics that mean a lot for advertisers (and hence for publishers). Fighting for an audience on the web is a zero sum game, which makes it imperative for you to produce truly unique stuff, as Skip Besthoff of CMI tells you.  

If there must be just one lesson that you learn from the traditional publishing industry, it has to be this: if you are not generating great content, nothing else you do will ever do you justice on the Internet.  

What lessons have you picked from any publishers you admire? Let us know in the comments.

This is a guest blog post from Tracy Vides. Tracy is a writer, researcher and content strategist, who has something to say about everything, including business, tech and fashion! Hit her up on Google+ for a chat. She’s @TracyVides on Twitter.


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