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Digital Publishing 101: What Is Digital Publishing?

Digital Publishing 101 What Is Digital Publishing@2x

So, you’re considering entering the digital publishing business. Presumably, you are wondering how to begin, what CMS should you use, how will you distribute your content, and whatnot.

This article will hopefully address those questions and help you understand what you need to become a successful digital publishing brand.

Digital Media and Publishing

When it comes to something digital, in most cases, it involves devices. This could mean anything from a website to a smartphone app or even a game.

We use media to communicate. The communication itself is performed via newspaper, book, magazine, document, image, or video. Whatever the medium, digital media is used to broadcast messages.

Considering that it provides digital media to consumers, it is safe to say that digital publishing delivers media to the public through digital devices.

a little space to be creative

Digital publishing is the equivalent of having your magazine on physical newsstands. People can open your website, come across one of your articles on social media, or locate you through search engines.

Today, the effortlessness of creating digital online content allows anyone, with the right editorial strategy, to create, publish, and distribute online content and attain massive readership.

The Revenue Potential of Digital Publishing

Because of the mainstream adoption of digital media and smartphone technology, online revenue opportunities continue to rise for digital publishers. This expansion means that the overall digital ad budgets will continue to grow.

Brands such as Adidas have decided to completely abandon TV advertisements in favor of going digital. Last year, the digital ad industry surpassed traditional media, seizing more than half of all dollars spent by advertisers.

Today, major brands need a massive amount of content to cover their digital omnichannel approach, and digital publishing companies should provide a data-based content approach to advertising opportunities.

Last year, content became the most effective digital marketing tactic, with a predicted revenue of $8.88 billion by 2022 in the US alone. More and more companies outsource their content to publishers that have specialized in content production and distribution, programmatic ads, and have formed relationships with influencers that can increase brand awareness.

The type of brands that are willing to pay for ad space will depend on your website’s reach. If you’re just beginning your publishing business, attracting major brands might be more difficult for you. But, as your audience grows, advertising can become the primary source of income for your media company.

Digital publishers that successfully bring more brand awareness to their clients will continue to do so as the content and programmatic demand increases.

Recommended: WordPress Publishing Explained: Key Revenue Growth Techniques

Business Models of Digital Publishing

The reality is that as a publisher, you’ll be faced with the reader’s expectations and the challenge of generating profit. That is why, as a publisher, you need to work on the development and optimization of your business model.

The majority of media publishing companies plan on increasing their ROI either through programmatic ads, subscriptions, branded content, or a combination of the above.

Each digital publishing company must define its core competencies and its business model. To do that, a few questions must be answered first:

  • Who are my target readers?
  • How relevant and unique is the content that we create?
  • How much is a brand willing to pay for our sponsored content?
  • How do we develop our content?
  • What other things can we make use of to increase our income?

A sustainable media publishing business model is the one that enables the company to continuously produce high-quality and relevant content while attracting an increasing number of advertisers and loyal readership.

The following are the business models that are currently being used the most by media publishing companies:

Paid Content and Subscriptions – Directed towards the readers that value relevant and high-quality content, and are willing to pay a recurring subscription to get it.

Publishers such as Bloomberg and The Washington Post have been able to make this model work through different forms of paid content and subscriptions.

paying for content

Retailing and eCommerce – A business model aimed at consumers that combines a willingness for purchasing products and reading product-related content. Companies such as Net-a-Porter use this model to provide content and exclusive offers for their consumers.

net a porter read and shop

Memberships – Focused on users that want to access exclusive editorial packages through a membership subscription.

Publishers such as The Atlantic have an extensive list of benefits for their dedicated members, including access to exclusive events and discounts.

the atlantic

Image Source: The Atlantic

Programmatic Advertising Dependency – Business model aimed at advertisers that need to distribute branding messages to relevant audiences.

Publishers such as Quartz depend heavily on advertisements, due to their highly-segmented and sophisticated audience that read their content.

quartz advertising

Image Source: Quartz

Branded Content – Intended for advertisers that want to create branded content pieces for their target audiences.

Companies such as CNBC Catalyst take advantage of their expertise to deliver marketing campaigns and branded content to their clients.

cnbc catalyst

The Content Diversity of Digital Publishing

Digital publishing is not limited only to articles. There are various types of publishable content, from articles to videos, ebooks, podcasts, and infographics. You’ll get to choose the media that works the best for your brand.

It’s always beneficial to diversify your content. Depending on your niche, you can have a mixture of longer and shorter articles, interviews, opinion pieces, and any type of content that is relevant to your readers.

huffpost content diversity

Image Source: HuffPost

Your readers should know when they move from one type of content to another. It should be visually emphasized through the layout and the brand elements of your site, coupled with a seamless reading experience.

huffpost video

Image Source: HuffPost

In a digital publishing environment, one should not forget about video content. Currently, it’s the most engaging content out there. Interactive charts, graphs, overlays, and popups are excellent too if you want to engage your audience further.

wired subscribe

Image Source: Wired

Some of your audiences might prefer to watch videos, others are okay with the written word, and the rest of them might enjoy a podcast.

Developing different types of content will help you obtain more readership, and will increase the accessibility of your website as a result.

Determining the Objectives

During your digital publishing work, if you want to partner up with big brands and advertisers, you can expect that they’ll ask you about your main objectives as a company. Having clear goals and vision for your media business will help you make the right decisions about your content, website design, and revenue models.

You need to think about what you want your readers to do when and after they read your content? Should they:

  • Subscribe to a monthly newsletter?
  • Share the content?
  • Comment and give their opinion on the subject matter?

For each of your goals, you’re going to need specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that need to be monitored and assessed. The following are some of the most important KPIs that you can use to measure your digital publishing goals:

  • Lead Generation KPIs: Number of subscribers, number of social media followers, number of conversions, number of completed website forms.
  • Website KPIs: Total reach, visit duration, ad clicks, scroll depths and length, average reading time, the average cost per acquiring a subscriber.
  • Brand Awareness KPIs: Number of unique web visitors, social shares, and CTRs from social and search engines.

You can use each of the metrics above to optimize your web experience. For example, if you’re not satisfied with how you convert web visitors into subscribers, perhaps you need to optimize your opt-in forms and calls-to-action. Or, if you lack social interactions, you might have to work on the engagement elements and social accounts.

Launching a Digital Publishing Business

Every successful business begins with an idea. However, launching a digital publishing business is not as simple as creating a blog.

The following are essential to a strategic media business:

  • Business Plan: Come up with a brand mission, and have an idea about the topics that you want to cover. Think about your editorial strategy and how are you planning to generate revenue for your business.
  • WordPress: Arguably, the most popular and the best platform to start and run an online magazine. The CMS has proven flexibility and extensibility, and with the right technology, it can be scaled to handle billions of monthly visitors.
  • Content: You need to create content that is aligned with your brand’s mission. Keep in mind that you need to develop a content strategy that will continue to bring in more traffic and increase your readership.
  • Advertisers: After your content gets significant traction, it’s time to find for an ad server to display advertisements on your site. In the beginning, let your business plan dictate the advertising partners that you‘ll choose.

Developing Audiences

As a digital publisher, you can’t increase your readership unless you know your target audience. How your readers will interact with your content will depend on their interests. That is why understanding your audience is one of the keys to digital publishing success.

Reader Demographics

Demographics are crucial if you want to monetize your digital publishing website through display advertising, sponsorships, or subscriptions.

Advertisers love to know more about who will see their ads, and whether its an audience they are interested in reaching. They need to know if readers are engaging with the content on your website, and that the ad space that they have purchased will bring them more clicks and sales.

Answering demographic and audience engagement questions is essential if you want a profitable sponsorship deal.

Audience Surveys

One of the best ways to collect demographic data about your readers is audience surveys. If you regularly browse media websites, you’ve probably been asked to fill out a survey.

nymag survey

Image Source: NY Mag

The majority of publishers use surveys in popups that show up at a specific time when users read articles, but they can also be placed on the homepage or in an email message.

The questions in the survey will depend on your intent. If you want to learn more about content that the readers would love to see, then the questions in the survey should be directed towards that. Or, if you need more data for your advertising partners, the survey must contain more demographic questions.

Web Analytics


Another way that digital publishers can collect information about their audience is by monitoring web analytics. Some of the most important website metrics that digital publishers should evaluate are:

  • Audience Characteristics: By monitoring audience characteristics, publishers can understand the type of content formats that people want to interact with.
  • User Behavior: How do readers interact with your website? By observing user behavior metrics, publishers can understand what inspires readers to click and share content, or in contrast, what makes them bounce from a site.
  • Audience Segments: Segmenting audiences is one of the best ways to gauge the right target readers. You can segment audiences based on devices, referral channels, geography, demographics, and interests.
  • Landing and Exit Pages: Web analytics can clarify where your readers interact and spend their time on your website. If people continue to bounce from a specific page, then you should optimize that page to increase reader retention.
  • Custom Dimensions: Publishers can use custom dimensions in Google Analytics to monitor the performance of their writers and gauge the authors that create the most engaging content. Custom dimensions can be set up to track post types, authors, tags, focus keywords, categories, and SEO scores.

Major Trends in Digital Publishing

Like every other industry, digital publishing is progressing, and publishers must remain current with the latest trends.

Subscription-Based Services

Undoubtedly, most people read magazines online. The subscription-based trend is emerging and will continue to do so. Large brands such as Quartz have launched membership programs to strengthen the relationship with the readers.

quartz membership

It is an educational hub that can provide insights and inform its members on what works, investments, global markets, and life in general. Their membership model allows users that pay for the exclusive guides to connect and engage while getting a competitive advantage by learning things that only members have access to.

Brief Videos

Another significant trend that we can see emerging within the digital publishing space is the usage of short videos. These videos can achieve significant virality among the consumers, because they summarize what’s essential in any given article in a matter of minutes, and sometimes, within seconds.

With the attention span of the readers in decline, it’s now more important than ever before for publishers to combine short videos with their articles.

cnbc video

Image Source: CNBC

Quality Content

Quality will always stay a trend, especially in digital publishing. People are now focused on learning from the content that they consume, and they can easily recognize if something is a lie or a filler. Your articles must be authentic, high-end and relevant to your readers.


Image Source: Forbes

Wrapping Up

Regardless of how and when you start, developing a successful digital publishing brand is not an easy task. From developing content to working with media and advertising companies, lots of aspects need to be taken into account.

We hope that with this article, you can now make better and more informed decisions regarding the different stages of development of your media company.

Remember that it’s all about the quality of your content. Good content will always bring in the right audience, and keep people coming back for more.

If you have questions about digital publishing or you’re interested in growing your publishing business in terms of audience and/or revenue, then DevriX is here to help! DevriX has managed to scale some of the biggest publishers to hundreds of millions of monthly page views, boosting their revenue as a result.