Li’l Robin on digital platforms

Strategic Design for Digital & Print

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Li’l Robin on digital platforms

Helping companies develop digital strategies for books

Many of our publishing clients are beginning to explore the new digital platforms and how to include them in their editorial and publication process.

Li’l Robin recently teamed up with the interactive design strategist Ronnie Peters to help our publishing clients develop and implement digital publishing strategies. Our combined expertise gives clients a team that makes the best use of different publishing platforms. By developing compelling narratives and experiences, we are enabling our clients to build vibrant interactive projects and create online communities that will generate buzz, interest, and revenue.

We understand how online experiences and digital publications can effectively complement new and existing book projects, and through this, we help to build brands in a meaningful way. In this newsletter, we discuss some of the possibilities.

Content Developers

The platforms for content have dramatically multiplied in recent years – not only do we read books and magazines, but we also get our information and entertainment through TV, desktop computers, smartphones, and now, eReaders and tablets.

One thing hasn’t changed: Publishers still develop content. Yet the options for packaging and distributing it have expanded. Instead of only publishing their content as books and magazines, publishers are now creating eBooks and apps.

The best strategy for the enterprise – in terms of what the content and the device will be – is being determined by the content itself and its target audience. Budget, legal, and copyright issues are also important considerations. At the moment, the starting point for most publishers delving into digital publishing is the brand- and revenue-building opportunity offered by an existing book. There are different strategies on how to approach this endeavor: Some publishers are choosing to repackage a book for an eBook format, while others are developing more extensive companion apps.

The key point for this strategy is to first define the goals for your digital “package” and then determine how it will dovetail with your already existing book. The possible platforms include an eBook, an enhanced eBook (which includes multimedia content), or an app, and the various devices include eReaders (Kindle, Nook, Sony’s Reader, etc.), smartphones (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry), and tablets (iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, upcoming Windows-based tablets). As publishers step into the digital arena, it’s essential to make a savvy and strategic choice about which format and which device are best suited for a particular project.

We’d like to share some thoughts for those companies considering the leap into the digital world. Here are three approaches that we believe are successful strategies for “digital packaging” when creating an app:


App Strategy: The Companion

“The Companion” is a book-based app that combines existing content from a book with additional material like audio and video segments that enhance the narrative and the subject matter. Because of the multimedia capabilities of the digital platform, the “Companion” allows a very different experience than is possible in a traditional book.

A good example of this strategy is the recently published JFK: Day by Day, a book written by Terry Golway and Les Krantz and published by Running Press. The book’s companion app juxtaposes the historical narrative with archival newsreels and images from the NBC News Archives, including President Kennedy’s speeches and press conferences as well as Kennedy family movies. The Perseus Books Group teamed up with NBC News to create the app.

As exemplified in JFK: Day by Day, each aspect of the project, or each “package,” as we might call it – the book and the app – serves a unique purpose. The two platforms offer varying levels of engagement, and they appeal to different audiences.


App Strategy: The Digital Helper

“The Digital Helper” is a companion tool that takes existing content from a book and complements it with a tool that allows users to accomplish a goal or to track, manage, or research an endeavor relating to the book. These tools can include a calorie counter, a calendar, and a shopping list. Some apps allow readers access to user-generated content from online forums.

The “Fertility Tracker” app, developed for the website Everyday Health, showcases this approach. The app, created for women who are trying to get pregnant, features a calendar that lets women track their fertility, and the app includes additional sections like tips, articles, and online groups, all of them structured to help aspiring mothers.


App Strategy: The Showcase

“The Showcase” is an app based on one section of a book or magazine. In this case, the app presents the section as a daily news feed or in the form of a column that features advice, tips, or suggested exercises. This kind of an app can get into much more depth – and, thanks to daily, minute-by-minute updates, can be much more timely – than is possible in a book or a magazine. Yet it still captures the sensibility and purpose of the original publication.

People magazine’s “Celebrity News Tracker” app is a good example of this kind of strategy. The app, based in part on the Top 5 section of the magazine, delivers on the main mission of People: to keep readers informed of celebrity news. The app enables the magazine to deliver late-breaking, hot-off-the-web news to its readers on a daily basis.


Know your content – know your audience

When developing a digital strategy for your content, it’s important to always remember who the target audience is. In contrast to book publishing, where the publication is a one-way communication, digital publishing projects open the door to conversations with the reading audience. Digital projects allow publishers numerous ways to connect with, and build, a community.


The benefits of going digital

The benefits of the digital platform are many, but it’s essential to have a sharp strategy so you can generate revenue. There are four key advantages to consider:
• Digital projects give you a direct connection to readers – publishers are no longer removed from their customers by two or three degrees of separation. You can collect information about your audiences and, with this, make strategic decisions and develop new projects.
• You can build a social community around your content or tap into an already existing community. People can connect to your brand in new ways, and you can be the authoritative, go-to publisher for a particular area of expertise.
• You can add value for individual readers, communities, and new audiences by making content and information more accessible, enjoyable, and easy-to-use – which leads to additional income for a single project.
• Through rich, multimedia experiences, you engage readers with the brand of the book while showcasing your own publishing sensibility.

The design and functionality of digital platforms and technology will continually evolve. But the best strategy involves examining your audience and developing a content strategy for all your potential projects – from print to digital. Having done this, you can determine how the different platforms can best complement each other and how you can realize their greatest possibilities.

The foray into the digital realm is an exciting journey. We look forward to talking with you, and working with you, in the adventure.

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