9 Myths About Digital That Are Holding Publishers Back

There are plenty of ways that one can make money and deliver value, build an audience and establish oneself as the anchored tenant in a local community—it just comes down to finding the right way and, of course, doing it right. Print is not dying, but print-only businesses are. As the media people consume diversifies, so too should print publishers.

Here Shweiki Media Printing Company teams up with Brian Ostrovsky, founder and CEO of Locable, to present local print publishers with a must-watch webinar on the nine myths about digital that are holding them back and some tactics and ideas on how to overcome them.

Myth 1

The market is not big enough for digital, publishers are not tech-savvy enough for it, readers are not interested in the digital environment, or the digital realm is too competitive. 

These assumptions are wrong. How much does it cost publishers to print and distribute their print publication? How much does it cost to turn on and have a website running on a server? As it turns out, a website is far less expensive to run than a print publication. Therefore, if one’s market is big enough to support print, it is big enough to support digital.

There is a lot of momentum in digital’s favor.

  • 81% of consumers look online before making a big purchase decision. They may start with the print publication, but consumers will go online to learn more.
  • 63.1% of people are using the internet in rural areas. This is especially prevalent as smartphone usage increases and small businesses increase their spending on digital.
  • 66% of small businesses are maintaining or increasing their spending on digital marketing.

Myth 2

Owning a website means just having a place to put the flip-book version of the print publication and some advertising information, and a site should just be a digital representation of the print publication or a media kit.

In order for print publishers to be successful online, they need to engage with their readers between issue releases and cover things they cannot in print. Some things would include articles that come in after the deadline, conversational topics, 100 photos in the gallery, etc. These are things that work well online but not in print.

Sponsored content is another great way to extend a brand:

  • Weekly homes reports (a curation of the homes available for sell in the area)
  • Pet of the week (perhaps sponsored by the the local ASPCA)
  • Local recipes provided by local restaurants.
  • News: Either hard-hitting or slice-of-life stories
  • Local guides
  • Social promotions such as tickets and giveaways in the social media world

All of these things will drive engagement, traffic and content, and publishers can make money from them.

Myth 3

Banner ads are the only way to make money online, and there has to be a lot of web traffic to drive revenue.

While it is true, if one wants to drive a lot of revenue from banner ads, they should have a significant amount of traffic.  However, it should be noted that there are many ways to make money online besides having a lot of traffic.

Print publishers can drive revenue, traffic and engagement through a series of techniques:

  • Community Sponsors
  • Social Promotions
  • Sponsored Content (articles, columns, featured events, guides)
  • Digital Services

Community sponsors are great because publishers can sell their vision and it is a way to pre-sell their digital presence to folks who are extra interested in being involved in the community.

Social promotions are also a great way to engineer engagement and viral hits. When done well, tying in a contest with some giveaways is a good way to increase engagement. After all, if one is already having the conversation, why not add more value?

Myth 4

One cannot afford to invest more money in digital because it is not profitable. It would only hurt readership and the print product. 

First and foremost, if digital could fully replace print, it would have already done so. The print experience is superior in many ways but not in others. For example, videos are hard to do in print.

As for being unable to afford investing in digital, it can actually be an efficient process. One should work smarter, not harder. Publishers should offer digital solutions because they are already talking to local businesses. Therefore, they do not have to attract new customers and can offer more value. If done right, it will generate more spending and be an incredibly price-effective solution for local businesses.

When digital is done right, it not only makes money, but it also frees up other money that might have gone elsewhere. It is highly profitable and valuable. Margins are normally much higher with digital because one does not have to print and distribute the product.

Myth 5

Facebook is not worth a publisher’s time because it does not drive any traffic OR Facebook is the only digital presence needed for publications.

Facebook is prevalent and should be a part of a publisher’s digital presence. However, relying solely on Facebook is a mistake because one is missing out on other potential revenue sources.

On the other hand, Facebook does drive a good deal of traffic, so publishers should invest some of their time into it. The publishers who use Facebook well are seeing a good deal of traffic come from the content they share.  The average Facebook share reaches about 2% of the audience. If publishers are doing a subpar job by auto posting, posting the entire story, or posting without links, then Facebook is not very valuable. However, if they are posting good content in a compelling way, then Facebook will be very valuable and act as a primary distribution channel for online content.

Myth 6

Print publishers do not need an email list because their readers do not want to receive regular emails from them.

Email, while not nearly as sexy or flavor-of-the-month as social media, is still incredibly powerful. When choosing between a follower and an email subscriber, one would choose an email subscriber every day.

It is all about the content! If one does not spam people, they will thank you for providing a valuable service.

Email is far more engaging and more under a publisher’s control. This makes it easier to create a content strategy that will be relevant to readers and potential advertisers.

Ways to get emails:

  • Ask for emails at events.
  • Run social promotions to build out lists.

Myth 7 

Publishers have to be at the top of Google search and should pay someone to optimize their site– otherwise, no one will find them.

The most important thing about SEO is understanding how it works. Search engine optimization, the technical side of it, is solved at this point. Any technology used for SEO should be able to handle the basic functions. What it comes down to is content: Creating good content, getting people to share it, sharing it as the publisher, etc. Once that content is flowing, publishers will start to rank better on Google.

Google is always trying to make a match. For example, if a person is searching for Subject X and your site does not have Subject X, then Google will not show you. Therefore, it is ideal to have good, relevant content and a lot of it.

Myth 8

If the site is not perfect, people will not visit it, and if it does not look perfect, people will lose respect for my brand, so I should wait…

If digital could be as compelling and engaging as print, then print would be gone. Print is always going to be superior. Publishers have this perfectionist mentality and think that everything has to be perfect. This makes sense because in print, once something is sent off, it is printed forever whether it is right or wrong. However, this is not the case for digital.

One shouldn’t have bad grammar or typos by any means, but if something happens to be posted that is incorrect, one can always edit it. It is a great opportunity for publishers to work quickly and timely over being perfectionists. If cat videos and memes have taught us anything, it is that timeliness and relevance defeat quality in digital every day of the week.

Myth 9

Publishers do not have time to sell digital and produce good web content. Even if they did, they are not tech savvy enough to do this themselves and cannot afford to hire someone. 

Typically, most publishers work pretty inefficiently when it comes to digital, so gains in efficiency could make up the difference alone.

Two things one should look for:

  1. The right technology that is quick to set up and easy to use
  2. The right partner to help grow traffic, engagement and sales

Also, publishers should take a sales-first approach. Many want to grow traffic, which is a good idea, but it is not the first thing to do. It would be almost negligent to not start by selling, because there are businesses that need help today. Publishers should think of themselves as digital solutions specialists and solve problems that businesses have now.

How Locable Can Help You

Locable specializes is working with publishers to work smarter, not harder and deliver more value to readers. There are three major ways we work with publishers.

  1. Ambassador Program: This is a quick and easy way to grow revenue by offering digital services. Participation is free.
  2. Standard Membership Service:
    • Technology to simplify the management of your website.
    • Sales training for you and your team.
    • Sales and marketing resources to get started quickly.
  3. Publisher Concierge Service: This is a full service digital team for a fraction of the cost of hiring an employee and grow your business without all the overhead. We can run local sites, break news and highlight local stories.

Visit locable.com for more information about us. Our YouTube channel and our blog has a lot of additional resources you may find useful as well.


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Brian Ostrovsky

Founder and CEO of Locable
Brian founded Locable in 2009 as part of a research project while in the MBA program at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. Brian recently served as Entrepreneur in Residence at Sonoma State University and has consulted at several startups including Fundability.com. Brian also earned an M.S. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota and a B.A. in Business Administration from Azusa Pacific University. Brian grew up in Placerville, a small town in Northern California with a quintessential Main Street.

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