December 18th, 2007

Reader-Centric Publishing: Aggregating and Repackaging Print Content Online

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For most print publishers, mapping the audiences for their various titles would yield a cluster of overlapping circles — many readers of one of the publisher’s titles also read at least one other title. This is particularly true in trade publishing (magazines and books), where publishers often have multiple titles within a vertical, but it is also true of newspaper companies that publish many papers within a larger region. For these publishers, mapping readers’ interest in content across their vertical titles would yield a similar cluster of overlapping circles, as few readers are interested in ALL the content across ALL titles, but rather SOME content across SOME titles.

vertical-print-title-overlap.jpg

Publishing was a great business because you could sell the WHOLE package (title) even though readers only valued PART of the package (articles), and you could get readers to buy multiple packages even though what would really serve them best was a single package with exactly the content they wanted.

On the web, of course, all that has changed.

Publishing online has become much more reader-centric, where smart publishers are now unbundling the old content packages that were defined by print titles, pouring all the content into one big bucket, and allowing readers to access that content by topic or through search. These publishers are not throwing out the print brands, as they still have great value (e.g. trust, authority), but they are allowing each article to stand on its own and be part of many different content packages.

In short, to quote David Weinberger, these niche publishers are finding that all of their content is miscellaneous.

Here’s a great video that dramatizes the new realities of digital content:

For example, Advanstar recently announced that it had integrated all of its health care industry journal sites into a single portal site ModernMedicine.com (via Folio):

Existing Web sites for Advanstar’s five primary care publications—including Medical Economics—and seven specialty care publications will be integrated into ModernMedicine.com. The portal will also offer article summaries from 300 peer reviewed journals, coding and reimbursement tools, formulary status tools, a library of CME programs, customized patient education, and coverage of more than 80 medical conferences. Content is free but access requires registration and Advanstar expects more than 100,000 registered users in 2008. “At a time when pharma is challenged, this allows you to have a revenue stream beyond just pharma,” says Steve Morris, executive vice president of Advanstar’s Life Science Group. “We don’t want to make this just another CME site. This really broadens the idea of what a portal site should be.”

That broader business focus includes partnering with traditional competitors, including CMP, which is offering its Search Medica search tool to ModernMedicine.com, as well as Quadrant, which is offering a CME planning tool. “People recognize they may not have the assets to build something this big but maybe they can partner with us and get a revenue share,” says Morris.

There two are notable elements about ModernMedicine.com. First, users can browse content by TOPIC, rather than by publication title. These topics are organized into a Resource Centers:

modern-medicine-resource-center.jpg

For example, here is a list of articles from the Diabetes Resource Center — notice how the print brands are still highlighted, but the content has been completely repackaged by topical focus.

modern-medicine-diabetes.jpg

Here’s another example from the Family Medicine Resource Center:

modern-medicine-famil-medicine.jpg

Of course, users are not limited to these fixed Resource Center topics — they can easily search across all of the content by any keyword, e.g. diabetes treatments.

The second notable element is the aggregation of content summaries from other medical journals NOT published by Advanstar:

modernmedicine-cardiovascular-small.jpg

The inclusion of third-party content is a radical step from a traditional publishing perspective but makes perfect sense from this new user-centric perspective.

Here’s how it’s framed for users:

modern-medicine-aggregation.jpg

modern-medicine-registration.jpg

Rather than asking users to subscribe to every publication, Advanstar is wisely asking them to register only once and then leverage that user data across the the entire site.

What’s really striking is how much more user-friendly this approach is, particularly for a general title like Patient Care, which is probably relevant to all physicians but only some of the time.

Another example from a different publishing industry — newspapers — is bclocalnews.com, which combines all of the content from Black Press’s local newspapers, which serve the British Columbia province:

Comprised of four of British Columbia’s major newspaper regions – B.C. North, B.C. South, Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland – Black Press B.C. serves small communities like Barriere and Sooke as well as the province’s major urban centres.

Black Press smartly framed bclocalnews.com as a destination for REGIONAL news, i.e. news from across the province, which is the common thread that unites all of the readers across the smaller localities: “BCLocalNews.com was created in 2007 to provide a single, comprehensive source of provincial news.”

As on ModernMedicine.com, bclocalnews.com retains all of the local brands, but repackages the content by topic — for example, here is the business page:

bclocal-business-news.jpg

Black Press uses the same publishing platform (a hosted solution from Clickability) to publish sites for each of the print titles, e.g. The Langley Times. But rather than create these print-title sites as silos, the front page heavily cross-promotes content from the network, showing users which content from the larger regional bucket is most read by residents of Langley, as well as the most popular articles among all BC residents:

bclocalnews-cross-promotion.jpg

Another example, this time from the book publishing industry, is Safari Books, which gives programmers and IT professionals access to content from thousands of book titles, based on topics the user is seeking information on, rather than the silos of the print titles:

With a Safari Library subscription, you receive unlimited access to all content types within Safari Books Online’s growing digital collection – books, manuscripts in progress, certification guides, online video courses, and more.

Among Safari’s innovations is providing access to “pre-published manuscripts on advanced technologies, updated as the author writes the book” — inconceivable in the world of print publishing.

These are just a few examples of print publishers who are blowing up the old content packages, which were based on distribution models that best served the PUBLISHERS, to create new dynamic packages that best serve READERS.

Comments (3 Responses so far)

  1. Scott – brilliant, as usual. From a business perspective… how are the dynamics of monetization evolving to meet these new dynamics of packaging?
    Have a nice evening.
    -Dan

  2. [...] Scott Karp takes a critical look at how B2B publishers need to change to meet the needs of readers. [...]

  3. I think that it’s equally, if not more significant, that all of this indexed, branded content is FREE to the reader.

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