From Print to Digital – A Publication’s Evolutionary Tale

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend an event about how newspapers and magazines are moving from print to digital formats.  Bryan Glick, Editor in Chief of Computer Weekly, graciously took time out of his day to come to the University of Southampton and speak with DigiChamps and WAIS/DTC and Digital Marketing students.  He spoke of how Computer Weekly has moved from a print magazine to a fully digital publication.

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Glick started at Computer Weekly in 2009, a time where the United Kingdom and most of the world were in the midst of a recession.  With many print companies going under and closing up shop, Glick took on the challenge of fixing this “broken” publication.  After a few years, Computer Weekly decided to cease printing in 2011.  While many took this as the magazine calling it quits, this was not the case.

There is a common misconception these days when it comes to publications moving from a print format to a digital format.  Digital does not mean dead; Digital means change.  While the tangible product is eliminated, the same quality, if not better, is transferred to a digital form.  From a consumer’s point of view, the largest change is the distribution method.

On the other hand, companies moving from print to digital models have a challenging task to consider– reworking their business structure.  Glick told us, “Digital does not mean digitise,” which, when you think about it, really makes sense.  You can’t take a print business model, replace the platform and except it to keep running smoothly.  Digital strategies require different elements and metrics, and those companies who do not realise this are destined to fail.  So, Glick and his team combined readers’ demographic information with their personal preferences to form a new digital strategy.

With the creation of a new business structure, the role of the journalist changed dramatically.  Journalist were once known to be the experts in their fields, being the first to know of a situation and reporting to inform.  Now, thanks to the Internet, they no longer play the role of the information gatekeeper.  Today, journalists must engage with their readers through social media, blogs and other digital media, in order to discover information and become informed.  Instead of being the first to know, they work to be part of a community of interest in order to learn and react to the world around them.

Overall, the evolution of the web and technology has, and will continue to, change the balance of power.  The news world used to be controlled and managed by the reporters.  Today, more than ever, the consumers hold the reins.  They have the ability to choose how and when they consume their media, whether it be via smartphone, tablet, laptop or whatever technology comes next.

Having worked in the media industry before, I truly appreciated hearing about Computer Weekly’s transition and the challenges they faced.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had to tell people that print isn’t dying.  Rather, it is evolving and adapting to its changing environment.

A big thanks to Bryan Glick for this very interesting presentation and for teaching us that we can expect even more, drastic changes to come.

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