DPInnovation BLOG

Digital Publishing Innovation and David McKnight

Category Archives: Solutions

Is the Value of Your Content Decaying?

It should not be much of a surprise to most of you that the value of published content declines once it’s published.   In a few rare cases the content can grow legs, go viral, and increase in value but most does not.

What may sound even worse is that the half-life value of most published content is zero.   Suggesting your content is rapidly decaying the minute it hits air.

This is true for both printed and digital content.  Digitizing content doesn’t on it own increase value without one key ingredient – Discoverability.

By Discoverability I mean using methods and process to increase the likelihood that a piece of information, content, can be found – discovered online – and hence give value to a reader.   SEO (Search Engine Optimization) helps but aS a publisher you have far greater value – the rich content itself.  SEO may be effective for your local retailer… what Google, Bing and others want is content.  The more discoverable, read and shared…the faster search engine bring your content to the top of the search engines.   You can buy your way there WITH SEO but your content keeps you at the top.

The key is a new kind of online Content Management System (CMS) designed for online publishing…I call it a PubCMS.  Trust me, to build these kinds of features into your current CMS solution, Open Source or not, will cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor hours and months maybe years to get online.

Marketing is an effect way to add value, get content noticed, but… marketing is expensive.


To estimate the potential value gained by making your published content more discoverable let us assume the chart here represents a publication.  The Traditional line (blue) represents your current publishing approach (again print only or also in digital and maybe a link to it on your existing CMS) and the PubCMS line (orange) is the using a new approach to make content more discoverable.

For the line chart the Yellow area represents new value created by making content more discoverable using a PubCMS solution.  In this sample if you measure this area it represent approximately a 46% increase in lifetime revenue over using the Traditional approach.

While this analysis is focused on revenue…The “value” gained from this publication could be measured in Revenue, New Members or Increase Value to members so it’s quite possible this example is very conservative.

How to measure value other than revenue? 

A good PubCMS solution will provide you with the analytics to measure the activity on the site, which publications get more traffic and how long, and other critical feedback to better understand the value of all your publications – which ones to feature, what you membership is interested in and where to extract more value in future publications.

This feedback gives you the publisher other critical information to explore bundling of content or micro-transactions to increase overall sales.   Bundling = if readers visit Publication A and B then an offer to sell Publications A and B for a reduced rate make increase sales (it also give more value to the regular price of each publication)  Micro-Transaction –  if visitors are regularly visiting Chapter 3,4 and 7 but not buying a book then maybe offering to sell the book by chapter makes sense – just like the iTunes model.

So, What are you going to do?

Clearly if your content only exist in printed form stored in a closet, or in a digital file stored on hard drives few have access too the only way it can be discovered is by a small description sitting on your website or in your eCommerce store.   With Bundling and Micro-Transaction you can offer hundreds of new products to meet readers needs and budget.   Try doing this with your existing eCommerce solution.

The internet and the very low cost of storing content can be an effective form of low cost marketing if you can provide access to your digital content, in a searchable and discoverable form – text in the document and/or meta-data describing the content.  By enable all of your published content to be searchable and discoverable (yes, you can still control access), consumable in different forms they way reader value it – your content then has additional value long after it is published.


Three Strategies to Create an ePublishing Platform

Trying to attract a crowd to your web presence? Build an ePublishing Platform with NotionPath

One of the most important aspects of embarking on the “investment” of digital publishing is to clearly understand how the solution will impact things like relevance, member value and new forms of revenue.   For some all three may be critical.  For other associations one or to may be more important.   Here are three ideas of HOW to impact – relevance, value and revenue.

#1   Central Repository

Many associations are rich in content but poor in organization.  Content tends to be fragmented and leads to content silos (LINK).   It becomes hard for members, let alone the rest of the world, to find information and often there is no way to cross reference related content coming from multiple sources (i.e. conferences, publications, research, journals, Newsletter, any written or recorded content).

By building a central repository – a data warehouse or knowledge center, you bring value to your members and a central tool for your staff.  You can continue to have other webpages for events, publications, marketing, etc and link back to your central repository.   A central solution allows:

1)    Standardized workflow distribution

2)    Enable readers to search multiple sources of content quickly

3)    Create new products based on topics and offer readers very focused content that meet their needs

These things are critical to enable your members or others to find relevant information fast.  It may also add new forms of revenue because people will pay to get access to just the information they need.

#2 – Delivering the Most Relevant Content

We live in an age of information overload.  Yet it can be critical we find a way to focus on the important information that impacts our career and world the most.   Digital publishing offer Associations new ways to help address this challenge and create value never before possible.

If your association adds value by making sure it collects and gathers content on a daily basis or you have members that have very different needs for the information you collect then this approach to ePublishing may be something worth exploring.

By using meta-data to index and categorize your content, then combing with information in your Association Management System that identifies what your members are interested in.  Plus the right Content Management System – one designed for ePublishing – you can create a web platform where each time a member logs in they are presented with the most relevant content based on their needs.

The site becomes very dynamic; content is changing as often as you enter new content.   Your members can more quickly focus on relevant content making the most of their limited time.

One tip is in your meta-data, you create a one or two sentence description of the content – a “news” summary or headline that to allow your reader to decide if they want to invest more time in that piece of content.   As your site manager watches what content is getting the most attention they can build bundles of content and share that as a new way to help members discover relevant information.

This solution in an “engagement” solution and does require active participation by Association Staff.  When deployed and operated well – this can be come a destination site for frequent visitors by members and possibility non-members too.

#3 – Discoverability and Access Control

Associations controlling access to content has been the standard – it’s how associations protect the value of membership.  The ideas expressed by some of “free access”, “freemium” if you would, as a way to grow, has some merit – but is that sustainable?     Controlling access is important but the challenge is being able to manage multiple types of access and have that access change over time (for example charge for last years conference content, restrict this years to attendees only and open up content from two years ago to all members or even the whole world.

Institutional or company access is also a new area of opportunity for Associations to license content to library’s or large organizations willing to gain access to a larger chunk of content.

So access control is key, but for some Associations it’s also critical they find ways to reach a much greater audience.   If membership is declining are there ways to still reach those not willing to pay for membership, but still see value in a portion of your content.   What about being more open to discovering other groups that you haven’t connected with that would also be interested in you content.

SO the opportunity is to use an ePublishing Content Management systems that allows you to think more strategically about your content, provides a variety of ways to organize and control access to content and be flexible to change that access as time or events change.   Your in-house publisher may very well be your key resource toward membership growth and new revenue.

Five Things To Know About XML

XML is at the foundation of what is driving digital content today.   Most eBooks have an XML foundation.  Many websites are driven by XML content.  So it is important if you are considering expanding your digital publishing efforts that you have an understanding about XML, how it can be useful to your Association and what you need to know when making this investment.

There are other solutions than XML to managing content and less expensive ones.    As you search for ways to bring more value to your content you should consider these five core elements of content organization.

#1 – Meta-data

XML allows publishers to surround information with information – meta-data.  Common examples of meta-data are title, author, topics, length, key words.  This information is helpful to allow digital solutions to create summaries or listings of publications.  It helps to sort and categorize information.  It brings structure and adds important information to help the reader.

#2 – Provides Structure

Besides adding information to content XML also helps provide structure to the content itself.   For example breaking content into sections – chapters or sections.   This provides a reader with more ways to navigate especially large documents.  It can also help publishers by giving them new ways to organize content based on topics.  We live in an age when it may not be possible to consume all of the content in a publication but by having some structure to it we can more easily find relevant information.

#3 – Don’t Scrimp on Conversion

To start using XML you may want to convert our existing publications into an XML format.  To sell an eBook on Amazon, the first step is converting to XML.   Things like fonts, symbols and equations can add complexity.     The process of converting is becoming easier with far more tools.

In many cases it is a labor-intensive process and why offshore providers are able to provide lower costs.   I’ve seen conversion prices from 50 cents to $5 per page or more.  But be careful.  It may be worth spending a few extra dollars to work with a vendor that can produce high quality conversion.  I’ve seen great work by offshore providers and often it is still more about their process than just how many people they throw at a project.

Many providers expect you, the publisher to catch the mistakes.  I often ask Association leaders how much they think they can afford to publish a document with a few errors in it.   In some cases – it can’t be tolerated at all…others it might be OK for the occasional typo.   My advice for most is not to scrimp and use a vendor that has the experience and reputation for quality.

#4 – XML Workflow

To make the decision to move to XML for anything but an occasional title, you should also consider your workflow and the process of getting content into XML at the author level.   Conversion works on a short-term basis but for larger publishers you will need to invest in your workflow.  The good news is, there are now some excellent solutions that will provide you with a workflow and greatly increase your ability to rapidly publish digital content.  Maybe the bad news is, it is expensive unless you have a large amount of content to publish on an ongoing basis.

#5 – Standardize and Convert to Many Outputs

One of the biggest advantages of XML is that once your content is in an XML format it can be converted to many other formats – .mobi (Amazon format), 3Pub (the most common eBook format),  and even into PDF for printing or online use.   However, there often is a small cost to convert each, yet for the publisher that needs to reach a wide audience on many different devices, XML is appealing.


While XML can bring a lot of value to digital content it does come at a price. What is important is that as you explore digital publishing you consider each of these points: 1) Meta-data 2) Structure 3) Conversion 4) Workflow 5) Outputs.   As you look for solutions and vendors then explore the COSTS (both in terms of dollars and impact on your staff), TIME (to get published and into the hands of your readers) and QUALITY (both in terms of accuracy and in formats readers can continue to learn and be informed by).

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.

Going Beyond Yet Another Website Upgrade

Association executives understand the importance of their web presence.  It’s driving more and more traffic and members expect more value from how they connect with you online.    So the question is… “How can you create more value with your online presence?”  It’s value creation where you need to focus…. Not on SEO or Marketing or Design or Content Management… none of these “create value”.  And chances are 75% of the bill from your provider is for these very things.

To bring this point home visit this Blog post on paidContent Forget about ‘content management’–and focus on ‘audience development’

This post is part 1 of 5 Posts, stay tuned and please share links to these posts.   We’ll wrap up these posts with a Webinar.   Please register for Building an Association ePublishing Platform on Sep 12, 2012 12:00 PM CDT.

#1 Three Must Have Web Presence Value Creators

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

#3 Four ePublishing Solution Provider Categories

#4 Five things for us non-technical people to know about XML

#5 Three Strategies for Creating an ePublishing Platform

POST # 1 of 5:  Building an ePublishing Platform

Three Must Haves Web Presence Value Creators


If you can’t be found on the Internet… you don’t exist.   Harsh, but true, in todays connected world.   Just because your organization has a lot of content, much of it online, unless it can be discovered, only the few that know where to find it will.    That may seam to be ok, protect that content, but is it impacting your relevance?   Also, should you be looking beyond your membership to find ways to connect to the rest of the world?

Access is key here.  Don’t give away the valuable content…just make sure people know it’s there…  and either charge for it or ask them to join.

SEO isn’t enough anymore.   The cool trick of some smart people to manipulate your way to the top of a google search results are fading.   In the future, value will return to good old-fashioned quality content, that can be found, and word of mouth (social media).


A bit related to the above, however, I’m specifically addressing the ability to help members and others perform complex, multiple search word, nested searches.   In the world of thousands of pages it will require users to search at the page level to find what they need… quickly.

Meta-data – information that describes content is also critical to help with the searches and to organize content or even reorganize content into new “bundles” of content offerings.


With todays epublishing transformations it’s easier with the right tools now for publishers, associations are publishers, to sell direct.  Selling not only to members but also the rest of the world.   By building a “destination” website Branded with your association, they are in your house and you get to control the experience and offer new things that they may not have otherwise learned about just by buying a book on Amazon.

Not that you should not be working with Amazon and other distributors… but the goal is to direct traffic to your web presence to give your association the biggest opportunity to influence readers and spread your mission.

The key question every association needs to ask, before investing in a new website, is how will this site create new value?  That value can usually be measured by:

  • Increase Member Value
  • Increase Relevance
  • Increase Revenue

…if it can’t impact or all three of these, you might want to invest somewhere else.

Time to Double Down on Digital Publishing

Move to Digital

I’m not going to rehash the old “Print is Dead” mantra.   It just IS for many types of publications – proceedings, directories, most manuals, standards, journals, marketing material, and more.

With change brings new value.   Your ability to reach a much wider audience brings huge value.   Strive to bring value to your members but connecting with a wider audience to build your community and key to maintaining relevancy.   Knowledge is your weapon.  Use it wisely.

Where should you and your team put your digital publishing focus?

Online and eBooks.

Here are the technologies or digital solution your team needs to research, learn and either build expertise in-house or go find.

  • ePub3 – for eBooks, this technology will be profound – books will not just be read but “engaged” with and learning brought to new levels
  • HTML5 and XML – for online, eBooks and mobile (mobile is CRITICAL)
  • “Pull” vs “Push” – website and mobile delivery that identify a members information needs and allows them to get the content they value most – not hunt for it or get spammed with email to know it’s available
  • Component Content Management Systems – sharing of content in small chunks, like the news has done for years, yet the chunks can be combined, mixed and matched to form new content pieces.
  • Community Technology – beyond your members.  Associations have led the way on building communities and today’s technology makes it easier for new communities to form.  So Associations need to embrace this technology too, and yes social media.    But communities that offer members the opportunities to meet face to face (events/conferences) – will have the edge.

For eBooks conversion from existing content with complex formatting, equations, charts, tables and all the stuff that is key to communicating knowledge – don’t waste your time “doing-it-yourself”.    Quality and accuracy are priceless and protects your reputation.   Find an expert and one that can help put you on a path to adopting new ways to collect and distribute content.

An Innovation Challenge:  Share this list with your entire team – assign a team member with one of these topics and have them research how that technology can impact your organization.   Have them find an expert and talk to them.  Awareness sparks innovation.

Sports Figures move over… Authors are coming!

Photo Credit to: Tina Phillips for Reader with imaged enhanced to include the ball.

On January 10, 2011 Skip Prichard, President & CEO Ingram Content Group posted on his personal blog “Wagging the Tail” where he commented on Seth Godin blog post “How The Long Tail Cripples Bonus Content/Multimedia” about Skips Huffington Post interview “How Will We Read? The Book Makers” on the Future of the Book.   Seth claimed that the long tail has hit the book business hard, and e-books will exceed a million new titles in 2012.  Because of this, all of the ideas Skip discussed (which Seth calls “breathtaking visions of the future” like embedded video and audio, plot twists, or alternative endings) he characterizes as “economically ridiculous.”

My two cents…

I do believe Seth is right, we will see an explosion in new authors and books of all levels of quality making it difficult to identify the best.  But as Social Media and Communities mature we’ll have a more effective ways to identify the truly talented… and many more than we have/can today.

At the same time while publishers are giving up their control of who get’s published they will be embracing technology, education and innovation.   As with any industry the early stages will have ups and downs.   Pricing and sustainable business models and methods will be an initial challenge.  But I think Skips visions will come true, sooner than some think (sorry Seth, although I’m not sure you’d disagree) and beyond most of our ability to predict today.  By having better ways to identify the talented authors and technologies among us they will turn reading into rich experiences and help to increase education exponentially.

And, back to Seth’s visioning, this will empower the artists among us and give them new platforms to enrich our lives.  Move over sports figures… authors and artists are after the hearts and wallets of all of us.

What do you think?   Who wins more of your time and money in the future…  Kathryn Stockett vs. Andy Dalton

Connecting with Your “Whole” Community

When an association or any membership based organization thinks about it’s community the first impulse is to think members.  There is a huge mistake with thinking this way.   Just ask yourself where your members come from?  Do your members come and go?   Do your members join as they change careers or reach a certain level of seniority?   Are there others that would value what you do and say?

The reason I raise these questions is to help associations with their content distribution needs.   Specifically reaching not just members but potential members…your “leads”.     For that matter, are there people whom you want to influence that may never become members?

When considering the value of your content you should be thinking about how you could share more content with the world.    This will help you to both grow members and evangelize the issue that drives your association.   Doing so also builds member value, people get to see what your association is talking about, and by all means use scarcity, holding back some information or monetizing that information wherever it makes sense…   but if the world doesn’t know what you are talking about…well, it’s like that tree that falls in the forest and no one is around to hear.

Where to find content to share and share widely:

  • Conferences:  After the event share as much as you can capture.   Maybe save some of the better pieces for members only or charge a fee….but share the rest.
  • Older content:  After 3 or 6 or 12 months (may very depending on the value) share your content.   Better yet, make it highly findable for members and non-members so you become THE place.
  • Offer Speakers, Authors, Sponsors, members a platform to share their thoughts and ideas with the world.   Now that you are building this knowledge center, allow your members and sponsors to contribute.   Keep it a simple process…little editing or review…and make the process easy for both the creator and the staff to get published (and this applied to all three suggestions…keep it simple).

It’s critical for associations and publishers to re-think their approach to sharing content.  Your relevance may rest on how you leverage your knowledge.

Share with us your plan for 2012 to connect with your community.

Image:  jscreationzs