Digital-First Best Practices

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With each passing year, the demand for digital media grows. More B2B publications have made and are making the transition to focusing more time and energy on their digital presence than print. Some have even pivoted away from print entirely to focus on a digital publication.

Last fall, ASBPE featured Lisa McTigue Pierce, executive editor of Packaging Digest, and Rich Luna, editor in chief of The Meeting Professional, on its How To Navigate The Path To “Digital First” webinar. Both publications have made the switch to all-digital formats.

During the webinar, McTigue Pierce said one of the biggest benefits of digital media is the variety of ways content can be shared—infographics made using tools such as Canva, Q&A interview transcripts, slideshows, videos and podcasts.

Luna said his publication had just made the switch to an all-digital format in 2020 during the pandemic. But going all-digital doesn’t mean the production cycle has changed entirely. He said the publication still produces a flipbook-style digital edition that is produced similarly to print formats. Although the flipbook-style digital edition is what Luna calls a “middle ground” between print and digital, he said The Meeting Professional has been finding unique ways to incorporate more engaging components to the digital edition such as interactive videos and alternative magazine covers.

The following are some additional takeaways shared during the webinar.

If a B2B publication is switching to an all-digital format instead of print or offering something new digitally, what’s the best way to get the word out to heavily print-invested readers?

Lisa McTigue Pierce of Packaging Digest (LMP): My answer is digitally. Reach out to them digitally and prove to them the value of digital content right then and there. You can do the digital announcement a lot of different ways. We had an announcement on our homepage. We also have done email campaigns to our audience and the community.

Rich Luna of The Meeting Professional (RL): Be transparent. We were very upfront about why we were [switching to digital]. Everyone understood it was a difficult time for everyone’s business. To continue to provide all the content you expect in our print format, you can have it in a digital format. We celebrated this—videos, podcasts, etc.

Did you perform a reader survey before switching to a digital format?

LMP: We always poll our community. We found before we made the change but when we had the strategy already in place to make the change, the percentage of readership that was using us digitally was so high. I thought we were maybe making the move six months early, but we were right on time. More than 75 percent of the readership was there already. After we made the switch to all digital, that shot up to the 90 percent range as far as readers communicating with us digitally.

RL: We had been polling our members all along. We had a member advisory committee. Over the years, we always asked about print versus digital. The response was that everybody preferred print. We said that a day would come when we would have to switch [to digital] I wanted to be proactive in making that happen. Instead, we were reactive in doing it because of what happened with the pandemic. But surprisingly, thankfully we only had two members reach out and ask, “Where is my print publication?” We had little negative feedback.

Do you have a story of transitioning to a digital focus? Let us know by reaching out to ASBPE!

Megan Smalley

Megan Smalley is associate editor for the Recycling Today Media Group at Cleveland-based GIE Media Inc. She focuses on writing, editing and podcasting for Recycling Today magazine. She has been with GIE Media since 2017 in several positions, including associate editor for Lawn & Landscape magazine and managing editor for Recycling Today magazine. She has been working in B2B media in the Cleveland area since 2014. She received a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Kent State University in May 2014.

Smalley previously served on the executive committee of the ASBPE National Board of Directors, and she is involved in ASBPE’s social, website and education committees.

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