Print publishers are perfectly positioned to make the most out of the digital publishing revolution. So why have so many legacy media companies struggled to maximise the opportunities that digital offers?

It's easy to underestimate the new skills required when moving from print to digital. This often entails a 180-degree turnaround from the traditional approach to publishing.

Here are just some of the ways that digital journalists have to turn their thinking 180 degrees:

  • Keywords. Print journalists have spent years celebrating puns, wordplay and other cute approaches to headlines and captions. Digital publishers need to ensure that they are using their readers’ language and strategically adopting keywords and phrases into their content.
  • Link building. What we used to call ‘competitors’ are now better viewed as our 'co-opetition'. Sending your readers to rival magazines and newspapers in the print sector is discouraged, understandably. But online linking out is a vital tactic. It provides extra value to your readers, and through reciprocal linking helps to drive your own site up the search rankings.
  • Tone of voice. In traditional publishing, especially news reporting, we were taught to remove the ‘I’ and provide objective coverage. With the rise of blogs, social media and user generated content it’s become more important to emphasise the human voice.
  • Conversations. Digital requires switching from a standpoint that says ‘we’re the experts and you’re the readers’ into one in which users participate in the media. Publishers that have based their business on reviews and opinion have found this particularly difficult to adopt.

Likewise, the adherence to legacy business models is holding publishers back from fully adapting to the new digital landscape.

Publishers are used to directly charging for content and selling advertising around it. But despite Rupert Murdoch’s recent signals any attempts to rely on charging for digital content are increasingly looking like an exercise in putting the genie back into the bottle.

Digital publishers need to think more broadly about outcomes, not input when looking at business models. Affiliate deals, pay-per-click advertising, freemium models, subscriptions, direct product sales, lead generation and other ways of unlocking the value of metrics and data are just some of the opportunities open to digital publishers.

All this demonstrates the need to drop old ways of thinking and adopt new ones. The only way to compete effectively in today’s highly dynamic media world is to bridge the interactive skills gap in-house.  Now is the time to ensure that publishing, marketing, commercial and content teams are fully up to speed with the new media landscape.

Econsultancy’s Postgraduate qualification in Digital Publishing, created in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University, will provide the digital media professional with a critical understanding of all aspects of digital publishing. 

If you’re looking to take a more strategic approach in driving your digital publishing business forward, contact Vivien Underwood on +44 (0)20 7269 1475 for more details.

Tim Tucker

Published 1 June, 2009 by Tim Tucker

Tim Tucker is Digital User Experience and Editorial Production consultant. Follow him on Twitteror connect via Linkedin.

1 more post from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (2)


Bill R.


I think most publishers have a tough time when considering strategies that most would consider non-traditional and counter intuitive. Furthermore, the concept of "sharing" information with an outlet's readers is very different from feeding those consumer whatever is produced. Now that readers can obtain content almost anywhere, the publisher is tasked with marketing and distributing its content to appeal to those readers, whereas before that was unnecessary.

about 9 years ago


Elly D

Are you familiar with one of my favorite publishers of new voices - Narrative Magazine, an online lit mag whose mission is to bring great literature to the world for free. They certainly are thriving, and and as a non-profit, all of their reading & contest fees go toward paying the authors they publish. Info at

about 9 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.