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Keeping up with your audience

Keeping up with your audience

A lot has been said about maintaining reach with your audience, but what about keeping up with their consumption pace?


Pace. It’s a common trope when discussing technology. I believe it is rightfully so as everything related to technology seems to develop exponentially. The capabilities of our devices, the volume of content we consume, and the speed with which everything is delivered to us seems to keep going up.


What goes into the printing process?

Six to eight weeks is roughly the time it takes for some traditional print media publishers to plan, create, design, print, and distribute their content. It’s a process that involves a lot of planning and coordination between production departments, the publisher, and a printer.


Then there is the printing process. Publishers have to consider a multitude of factors to ensure things like final trim size, page count, paper grade, quantity, binding style, and shipping are all correct.[1] Then there is a bid process or quote for the cost. Then there is the actually printing of the content. Then there is distribution. It can go on and on.


Carefully considering all of these aspects is crucial for producing a quality print publication, but the entire process can bog down the ultimate goal of distributing content quickly.


Where does digital publishing fit in?

With a digital solution, publishers don’t need to concern themselves with figuring out some of these details ahead of production. Obviously, things like paper grade and binding style aren’t concerns with digital publications. While page size still plays a roll in digital publishing, digital solutions are more forgiving as the content is displayed within a standard viewer, although PDF specification guidelines do exist to help publishers optimize the experience.[2] Page count can also become an issue as some printers provide different prices depending on if a publication is in a multiple of 8, 12, 16, 28, etc. pages. With digital, this simply isn’t an issue.


But where publishers can really experience the digital advantage is in distribution.



Publishers have the ability to upload once and distribute their content widely to their audience. Which also solves the problem that goes along with determining the quantity needed. Once publishers activate their digital edition and distribute their link, they are potentially exposing their content to as many readers are in their email campaigns, follow their organization on social media platforms, or whatever other digital distribution methods publishers may utilize. Plus, there are the “pass along” readers that come from existing readers sharing and distributing the publication link themselves to consider. All things considered, digital publishing provides the opportunity to reach a huge audience with a single link. That being said, with a digital solution publishers don’t have to calculate how many issues they need to print or traditional distribution options.


How can publishers make the most of the digital advantage?

We know how a digital solution can make distribution fast and simple, but let’s take a look at a real-world example of the digital advantage in action.


Recently, BlueToad worked with First Coast Magazine to produce a crowd-sourced publication during the One Spark festival in Jacksonville, Florida. During this project, First Coast Magazine took advantage of having a digital solution.


From their website:

From April 7 to April 12 a collaboration of First Coast creatives built the May issue of First Coast Magazine live during the 2015 One Spark, “The World’s Largest Crowd funding Festival.” Throughout the five-day festival window, attendees took part in the magazine production process by attending live interviews with audience Q&A sessions, voted on the crowd-sourced cover artwork and editorial photography, while the editorial and design teams built the publication page-by-page in front of an audience. The issue […] was digitally published Sunday, April 12th to coincide with the closing ceremony of One Spark. The print issue hits the stands April 30, 2015.[3]


maglab cover


This creative and ambitious project not only attempted to keep up with the pace of their audience and the One Spark festival, but also welcomed audience participation. The First Coast Magazine team was able to generate content, design the layout, publish, and distribute each section of the magazine in less than 24 hours…for five straight days. This experiment took advantage of the digital publishing process and created a relevant and interesting issue for the publication’s catalog.


And what does this all mean for me as a publisher?

Should you abandon your established publishing timetable and work exclusively at the pace of your audience? Probably not. But publishers can incorporate these digital advantages into their normal publication process.


Perhaps utilizing special digital features like tall pages[4] can allow you to add special content without disrupting your existing pagination. Or adding video[5] on top of a page can allow you to provide a special and very recent message for your digital audience.


In the end, the digital advantage can have different meaning for different publishers. Taking your content and processes and enhancing them with advantages provided by a digital solution can help your publication Stand Out in the Digital Forest.