DPInnovation BLOG

Digital Publishing Innovation and David McKnight

Eight Questions to Address Before You Start Another RFP Process for Your Website

POST # 2 of 5:  Building an ePublishing Platform

The conversations will continue with a Webinar.  Please register for Building an Association ePublishing Platform on Sep 12, 2012 12:00 PM CDT.

Core to most association is the content they collect, create and share.   In many cases this content is what builds relevance with their members and the rest of the world.   Next only to “networking” … it is a main product of Associations.

What is also clear is that the Internet and digital technology are transforming the publishing world.  Never before has it been easier for an author to get published.  The challenge for authors will be in building an audience… a community… which is where associations can bring a lot of value to content creators.    However, there are a lot of decisions to be made and choices to consider.    It is clear the mobile devices are a growing way for readers to consume content.

So who do you turn to for help.   Existing vendors trying to

# 1   How much of the revenue and control do you need? 

Many associations have turned over the publishing of some of the biggest content assets.   Maybe that still works for you?  But if you need everything you can to help bring more to membership value and to connect with the rest of the world… maybe it’s time, get more control to leverage your content to add more value and build a bigger community.

# 2   What are you willing to invest in staff and costs to convert  content and change workflow?

Many of the more robust publishing platforms are build on XML.   And clearly XML is the future but don’t underestimate the cost to doing so.   Converting to XML is powerful, still expensive, and requires you to once again edit the results.    To really capture the benefits of XML you need to change your content workflow and tools.   That requires additional investment and training for staff.   A full XML workflow solution may start at $200,000 plus training.

Oh, and if you do decide to convert some or all of your content choose your conversion company wisely… for a few extra dollars quality conversion is priceless to reduce mistakes and maintain your image with readers.

# 3   How clear is your vision for the solution or do you need help?

This may not be a big surprise but the clearer you are about your vision for ePublishing solutions the better vendors can provide you with meaningful proposals.   If you don’t have someone on your team to explore the options… find someone.   You may save a lot in wasting your staff on reviewing dozens of solutions with very different technology/products.   Or worse, deciding on one and changing course later.

# 4   How much control over the Branding do you need?

Do not underestimate Branding.    We see in the for-profit world example after example that the “Brand” became more important than the product.   I love “Apple” products, but how many of you don’t think that just because there is an Apple on that box the value just went up?

For associations it’s about being the place to go to learn about ___________ (you fill in the blank).   Yes it’s people, your network, your community, but it’s also your content.   The more people connect the words they read to your association the better chance you have of developing lasting relationships.


Simple Formulas:



Putting a Value on Branding

 Investment Decisions

Total Number of Members / Total Annual Revenue = Annual Revenue Value of One Member Annual Revenue Value of One Member X 100 new Member Goal = New Revenue to Your Association
Total Number of People in your Database who are Not Members / Total New Memberships in the Last Year / Annual Revenue Value of One Member (above) =Average Annual Value of One Lead Average Annual Value of One Lead X 1000 new Lead Goal = New Revenue to Your Association

#5   Exactly what content do you plan to include in this solution?

Time to do inventory.   Build a list of all the types of content your associations collects, shares, stores, creates.   Online, in Print, on the shelf, in your computers… maybe in the closet or on the floor.   All of it.

  • Conference material, publications, journals, manuals, newsletters, audio, video

This is the first step in building a content strategy.  Other things to know – who created it, who edits/organizes it, where is it (website, LMS, eCommerce, basket, folders), what files are they in, who reads it, price or other value it creates if any.

With this exercise down you can begin to think more strategically about how to better leverage that content.  Vendors will be better able to tell you what they can do with it and how much that will cost.

# 6   Do you have a good vision of Access Control?

Being more “open” is important and I support the general idea of some that it’s important to find ways to share and connect to lead to building bigger communities.   And for all the value that “free-premium” has to offer – at the end of they day giving away content does lower it’s value…  in my view anyways.   So good Access control is critical and may be the biggest challenge for most Content Management Systems.

You need to tell them….

  • What is your plan for access control.
  • Member vs. non-members and for what?
  • Will you need eCommerce, subscription access, downloading of files, bundling of files (pulling content apart and forming new offerings)?
  • Can that exist separate from your current eStore?

Of course there are other questions, or a pricing strategy for you to also think of.

For vendors….

  • Can they intergrade their system with your AMS?
  • How much?
  • Who does it?

# 7   Do you have a Distribution Plan?

This is an important question and one that can get very complex depending on how big of a distribution channel you want to fill.   The Book on Demand and eBook business alone has a dozen solid players with four main distributors (Amazon, Apple, Google, Barns & Noble) and dozens of service providers with varying levels of experience.

Each distributor has a separate process, some different file formats to convert to, and different royalty programs (most get around 30% and cost to produce).

#8   Is there a Content or Knowledge Strategy in Place?

I’ve mentioned strategy a few times so I’ll conclude with a recommendation that you either in-house or get help to spend time upfront on defining a clear Knowledge Strategy.  It isn’t, nor should it be, a time consuming process.   Get someone to help guide the process then get your decision makers together and explore the options.   If some options are not clear, learn about them.   The goal isn’t to turn everyone into Content Experts…. it is, to get to the important questions…

* What do members want?   Really!

* What does the rest of the world want?  How can we connect?

* Do we have goals or expectations that are important for future success?  Revenue goals, New membership goals, Outreach Goals.

Getting a handle on your Associations needs will help vendors be more clear on how they can or can not help you.   More clarity on pricing too.  Most Content Management Systems (CMS) can, most of the time, be programmed to meet your needs – some more than others at the cost to “custom develop to your specifications”.   That can get very pricy and adds risk for your staff to get it right without costly rework.  Besides the cost to develop, is the “time” it takes to get your site live on the web and generating more value.    If you can’t get meaningful content on-line with eCommerce, Access Controls and Branded in place  within weeks…. you may be using a CMS or Vendor not designed for ePublishing.


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