Seven Things Making Digital Publishing Better Now

by , Jul 16, 2012, 1:42 PM
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Now is the golden moment when digital media can really come into its own. To create a new standard in quality digital publishing, we need to recognize it as an entirely new medium and rethink the relationship between content, editorial design and user experience. Sometimes that means borrowing from and improving on trusted old standards. At other times it means pushing into new frontiers. Here are ways that we can approach digital publishing and improve the entire online media experience.

1. Web typography no longer sucks. The rapid adoption of new standards and technologies, as well as the launch of services such as Typekit (or even Google’s free alternative Web Fonts), has essentially fixed the Web’s typography problem and is ushering in a renaissance of editorial design.

2.There is no mobile Web. The separation of desktop and mobile devices is quickly becoming moot. We use our phones to browse the Web from the couch and we work from our laptops while sitting in the park. There’s only one Web. Your publication needs to exist everywhere it does.

3. App or website? Easy decision. We have a simple rule: If it can be done on the Web, build it for the Web; if it can’t, build an app.

4.  Consider social everywhere. This doesn't mean putting even more social sharing buttons everywhere they'll fit. Instead, consider social interactions based on context. An image could use a pop-up Pinterest button, while selecting a paragraph could prompt the user to share it on Facebook or Twitter. Posts could evolve over time with reader contributions that go beyond comments.


5. Design matters (now more than ever). We’ve become lazy. The bar was set low, and few have ever tried to raise it. Worst of all, success has rarely been linked to great design. Yet readers are clamoring for beautiful editorial experiences. We’re starting to see editorial design crawl its way into digital publishing; let’s celebrate it.

6. Start planning for next year’s resolutions. The new iPad and iPhone 4 are only the first wave of devices that will redefine our expectations of what a screen should look like, and what it can show. New resolutions that match or even surpass print mean a vastly improved reading experience if your media can keep up.

7. Be data-driven, and then ignore the data (sometimes). Select a few key metrics that will define whether or not an experience is a success, and then measure, measure, measure. Build iteration as part of your spec. You won’t get everything right the first time around, but trust your instincts. Behavior changes sometimes take time. A learning curve is okay.

2 comments on "Seven Things Making Digital Publishing Better Now".

  1. Richard Truesdell from Automotive Traveler
    commented on: July 16, 2012 at 2:28 p.m.
    Great article. Of all seven points, I'm most interested in point three, app or website? Five years ago, when we launched Automotive Traveler as a digital-only magazine with no print counterpart. BI (before iPad), Automotive Traveler was designed in a landscape format for the laptop and desktop computers of the time. And with the introduction of our in-house-developed viewer in September 2010, our content can be viewed in any browser-quipped device and all of our content is indexed by search engines (as text as well as images), thus shows up in search results, something most apps lack to any degree. It just so happened, with the introduction of the iPad, that Automotive Traveler's content works fine on the iPad's included browser, even better with some of the third-party, full-screen alternative apps. The one problem we have, design-wise, is that we've been publishing in a 16x9 wide screen format since our inception in 2007 and the iPad, the dominant player in the tablet sphere, is a 4x3 aspect ratio device. This brings me to point six, start planning for next year's resolutions. Will the next generations of iOS devices go wide screen taking advantage of the increased resolution of the upcoming devices or will they stay with the 4X3 aspect ratio of the current iPad? All of our content, both on AutomotiveTraveler.com (http://bit.ly/Q2IaKu) and in Automotive Traveler magazine (http://bit.ly/O4hmUW) is produced in an iPad/tablet-friendly, computer-compatible format, a landscape format given that the design is fixed in our layouts, allows us to address readability issues that plague magazine-style content, especially digital magazine replicas, that are simply unreadable without zooming and scrolling. I hope that my colleagues and peers reading this will click on the links above and comment on our efforts. This is especially important as we start to ramp up niche-focused micro magazines that can be produced economically for very targeted audiences requiring much lower levels of advertising and sponsorship support. Richard Truesdell Co-founder and editorial direct, Automotive Traveler magazine, AutomotiveTraveler.com
  2. Richard Truesdell from Automotive Traveler
    commented on: July 16, 2012 at 2:29 p.m.
    Why does the commenting function strip out all the paragraph breaks?

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