How to Build Your Content Across Platforms

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A decade ago, web publishing was easier because your online home was your website. Today, your publication lives in an online ecosystem that in addition to your website includes:

  • Social media pages

  • Read-later apps

  • Aggregator apps

  • RSS

  • Email

  • Phones

  • Tablets

Modular content that can be assembled for different platforms maximizes content reach while minimizing duplication of effort.

Modular content that can be assembled for different platforms maximizes content reach while minimizing duplication of effort.

One thing you can’t do is take the same layout for your online publication and shoehorn it onto phones and iPads. Condé Nast tried to do this to get their magazines onto the iPad, and saw iPad subscriptions plummet.

The Problem

How do you succeed at publishing content across platforms without developing individual versions of your product for every device you can think of? A “mobile first” strategy neglects desktop users (and yes, there are still plenty of those), while a “desktop first” strategy neglects mobile users (which are increasing in number). You need a strategy involving:

  • Titles optimized for desktop and mobile

  • Images optimized for desktop and mobile (scaling up or down depending on platform)

  • “Save” capabilites across platforms so you can start reading on one device and continue on another

The Goal

Your goal should be developing clean basic content that is designed to be re-used across multiple platforms. You have to start out by thinking about the best ways to get it onto different platforms, how it’s going to appear in social media, and even how it appears in email campaigns. Tall order, right?

The Overarching Solution

Solving this problem starts with thinking in terms of content management rather than web publishing. National Public Radio has been successful with this type of strategy, which they call “Create Once and Publish Everywhere,” or COPE. Rather than making a version of an article for the website and another one for the iPad, another one for Androids and so on, they developed an interface that allows them to assemble modular components such as text, music, and graphics for each platform. Content management along with basic content modules that can be reassembled for different platforms allows for cross-platform publication without “reinventing the wheel” for each story on each platform.

Specifics of Cross-Platform Content Development

Here are some specifics that successful cross-platform publishers are doing. Not all of these may apply to your particular publication, but you can see how these modular elements maximize publishing options while minimizing duplicate effort.

Responsive web design – this is under your web designer’s expertise and is how you design your site to be platform friendly

Multiple headlines – each device can be assigned the best headline for that platform

Video transcripts – because video on mobile doesn’t always work well. SEOmoz’s Whiteboard Friday series includes transcripts for this very reason.

Consistency of branding across platforms – logos, fonts, and iconography make users feel “at home” on different devices

Extensive testing and learning – start small by testing different content types and experimenting to figure out what works, then track the results carefully to learn which platforms under-perform so you can address problems

Getting your cross-platform strategy just right requires testing and experimentation.

Getting your cross-platform strategy just right requires testing and experimentation.

Silo deconstruction – developers, editorial workers, and marketing professionals all need to understand what everyone else is doing toward cross-platform development. Cross-functional collaboration is essential to successful cross-platform publishing.

Continued commitment to content quality – if you’re not creating high quality content, the best cross-platform system in the world won’t do much good

Conclusions

Don’t think of your company as being in “magazine publishing” or “web publishing.” Rather, you have to develop the mindset of being in the content publishing business. With the content publishing approach, you develop ways to create content so that it can be assembled for numerous platforms, rather than just creating a magazine and forcing the exact same content onto all devices with no consideration for different platforms’ strengths and weaknesses. When you take a content management approach to content production, you also make the most of your monetization efforts. Your cross-platform strategy should have a clear business benefit, or else it’s all just busy work.

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If you have a trade publication or run a media division and are investigating possible revenue streams, we invite you to check out what RealMatch offers, such as recruitment advertising solutions for media companies and digital publishers that drive audience development and site revenue.

Photo Credits: KROMKRATHOG / freedigitalphotos.net, renjith krishnan / freedigitalphotos.net

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