CMPTO Considers Digital Content Options

Last week’s CMPTO meetup was all about going digital, but not in an EPUB sense. As multimedia continues to grow and expand, so do the expectations of the people who consume it. Last Wednesday night we had three fantastic speakers, all of whom were able to shed some light on how publishers might begin to view the new digital landscape and what “going digital” means to each of them.

Getting Paid to DIY

First up was Brett Sandusky, who is a veritable jack-of-all-trades. This man is a freelance writer, product manager, entrepreneur, teacher of book metadata and infrastructure at NYU, and spirited knitter.

Brett is in the beginning stages of his latest business adventure, Holocene, which is a digital microzine for passionate DIYers like himself who want a one-stop spot where they can find all the information they need for a project, in whatever format they prefer. Every month, users of Holocene will be able to browse pictures, read articles and watch video tutorials for up to four separate DIY projects. And guess what—he’s monetizing it!

At first I balked at this. Why would I pay for something that I can feasibly find for free on sites like Pinterest and YouTube? But then I thought about how few DIY projects I have actually completed—zero (like, ever). And maybe this is because I’ve found it so overwhelming to get into DIY. Visiting sites like Pinterest as a starting point is a little bit like going down the rabbit hole. If I want to learn how to make something I see on Pinterest, I have to link through to someone’s blog, which may or may not deliver clear and exact steps for how to complete the project. There is no shortage of ideas out there, but it can take a lot of time to figure out which video, post or illustration will help me take a project from beginning to end.

But Holocene is different. It’s thoughtfully curated and carefully created. Every month users will be able to expect four different DIY projects to be explored in full. Brett and his team act as curators and choose each project carefully before designing step-by-step instructions to complete these projects using a combination of written content, photo images and video tutorials. The feel is less cluttered, more focused, and everything you need can be found in one place. I feel less anxious just thinking about it.

Mobile Web or Native Apps?

Next up were two speakers from Jet Cooper, a user experience company based in Toronto that designs products for people on web, mobile and tablet platforms. Arati Sharma (Operations) and Jordan Saxe (Product Manager) shared some strategies for planning digital solutions that are right for you.

According to this pair, which platform you end up choosing depends on these five factors:

  1. what your content is and how you wish to structure and prioritize it;
  2. who your target audience is;
  3. the costs associated with development and budgetary restraints;
  4. whether you have people on staff trained in software development; and
  5. the extent to which you want your content to be sharable and flexible to the user.

This is certainly a lot of information to absorb, but it is also coming from someone looking in from the outside. While Jet Cooper has worked alongside content providers, they have never worked directly with book publishers, whose situations and problems are as unique and diverse as the books they publish.

I would have liked to see these presenters delve deeper into what they would recommend if they were working with publishers, particularly whether they would recommend optimizing content for mobile web browsing or native apps.

It might be worth looking at how Jet Cooper helped out Metro Magazine in the case study that they provide on their website. While a daily newspaper isn’t the same as a book, it is still read and consumed by readers, so some of the lessons learned there may very well be transferable.

Also worth reading is an article published in the Guardian wrote last month that spoke to the pros and cons of using HTML5 or native apps. Data from Flurry Analytics indicated a significant increase in usage of Mobile apps vs. web navigation and hours spent watching television. The results point to an increase in people turning to functional apps over mobile browsing.

A clear take-away from both of these presenters is that they believe publishers have valuable content that people want to consume and are willing to pay for. But finding the right model will involve a bit of experimentation in how content is presented.

Figuring out what digital path is right for you will depend on how you answered the aforementioned questions and what kind of user experience you wish to create. In the end, your user will be most concerned with whether or not you are providing something that is functional, has added value, and provides a seamless user experience.