How to choose the right platform for digital publishing success

Your choice of platform today can make or break your publication.

With 1000’s of publishing solutions available, it can be an overwhelming decision. There is some good news in that today we know what we really need to succeed online. There are 8 things your platform must do to attract readers and keep your content flowing fast:

  1. be mobile phone and tablet friendly
  2. be Google search friendly
  3. be Facebook, LinkedIn, and social sharing friendly
  4. build your email list
  5. give you metrics on reader activity on your site
  6. integrate with Apple and Android apps
  7. offer lightning fast workflow
  8. remain a top platform choice for many years

Let’s start looking at each one of these needs.

1. How do your articles look on mobile?

uni-3Today over 50% of readers are reading your articles on a mobile device. Stop to think about that for a minute. This is a massive change in how your readers are behaving. If you’re not providing an easy to read experience on mobile devices readers will go away fast.

Google is also penalizing websites that are not mobile friendly. In-other-words if you built your site several years ago and it doesn’t look good on a mobile device, your publication will not show up when searching on a mobile device. This is a publication killer as readers just won’t find you.

What’s the answer?

Make sure that your web publication is built in a mobile responsive manner. If not have your webmaster recode your site to accomplish this. WordPress makes it amazingly easy to do this. Simply find a mobile responsive theme (most new themes are) you like, install and customize it. Your mobile responsive site will make sure that when somebody views your site any screen (phone, tablet or desktop) that your articles will be properly formatted, the font size will be large enough, and the reader will have a friendly reading experience.

2. Your articles must attract readers from Google search

google400bLet’s talk about getting your articles found in Google search… or “search engine optimization” (SEO). The bottom line is you have to tell Google what each article is about. This sounds obvious but from a Google standpoint you have to be obvious about the keywords you use.

Let’s use an example of a soccer news site to illustrate the point: If I write an article about the techniques of scoring a goal I might be tempted to title it something like this:

The zen of scoring

Not a bad title for a human but it’s pretty terrible as far as being found in Google search.

A better title for SEO might be:

How to score a soccer goal

What’s the difference?

The first title uses one soccer specific keyword: scoring. The second title uses three soccer keywords score, soccer, and goal. The title of an article is probably the most important search tactic available to publishers. The keywords in the article body are also important but if you can craft a title that has the keywords that represent your publication, then you will attract more visitors from Google search.

Keep in mind, when in doubt, always craft titles to appeal to humans as enticing a human to actually read an article is the ultimate goal.

Flip-books and PDFs will hide your content from Google

Many print publishers have fallen into the trap of uploading articles to a flip-book generator or publishing PDFs on the internet. This approach, although easy, pretty much guarantees your content will be hidden from Google and not be shared in social media.

Flip books and PDFs rank poorly in search because Google can’t crawl them very well. Google also doesn’t know what they are about since a PDF or flip-book is a collection of articles on different topics. When was the last time you searched for something and you found a PDF or flip-book? I thought so.

And finally PDFs of the books don’t read well on mobile devices, so the reader does actually find your flipbook or your PDF water on her phone, forget about engaging them with your article.

Your Paywall

profitIf you’re running a paywall or thinking about setting up a paywall you have essentially two options: hard paywall, or a metered paywall.

The hard pay wall is a nonstarter. Hard means exactly that, articles are not available to read unless you’re a paid subscriber. This also means that Google cannot read your articles and know what they’re about. This affects their ability to rank well in search and pretty much guarantees that your articles won’t be found there.

The meter paywall (or the leaky paywall as we call it) is a way to offer a few articles for free to the public before requiring a reader to subscribe.

What this does is lets Google crawl all your articles over time, indexing all the text in each article, so that when somebody searches for something or shares something in social media the article is fully available. Only when a single browser decides to view more articles than you have set on the meter, does the pay walk again.

The New York Times was the 1st major publication to embrace the metered paywall a couple of years ago and their digital subscriptions have been growing ever since.

3. Social sharing

Social Media Logotype BackgroundFacebook is creeping up on 1.5 billion users. Twitter has over 600 million registered users and LinkedIn is attracting groups of like-minded individuals in your niche. You need to reach these people by letting them share your articles in those social networks.

If you’re not charging subscriptions and all your articles are public, then readers will be able to share all your articles in their favorite social networks. If you are charging subscriptions you must use a metered paywall which will allow readers to share your articles.

The meter can actually let one person share an article to a million other individuals. Taking advantage of this kind of viral sharing is a must in today’s day and age and only a metered paywall can accomplish this.

4. Building your email list

mailchimpHaving readers subscribe to your email list is still the number one way to reach your audience.

When a reader gives you his or her email address they’re giving you permission to pro-actively send them the articles that you publish. It’s called opt–in and it means that they have opted to receive notifications from you in their email box. As much as you might think spam is a problem today, email has proven to be a critical part of your publishing platform.

So how do you go about building your email list?

What I recommend is that you use an email service such as MailChimp to send your emails. MailChimp allows you to automate all your email blasts to your subscribers. You simply set a schedule… say Friday at 11 AM. Mail chimp will scan your site to see what new articles you have published since last time it sent out your email and send out all new articles.

You receive the benefit of collecting the email addresses of your subscribers to connect with and advertise to.

Some tips:

  1. Create an clean, mobile friendly design for your email template. Remember most of your articles are read on mobile? Simple is better.
  2. Add a subscription button that links to a subscription page on your website. Create a nice button that says subscribe and then a short benefit underneath that then links the reader to a subscription page.
  3. Your subscription page sells the benefits of subscribing to your publication (what they will get and why it’s important to them). Here you can expand on the benefits of joining your list and is a great spot for a simple privacy policy.
  4. Don’t ask for too many pieces of information. The more fields a user has to fill out the lower chance that they will actually subscribe. Their email address is usually enough.

5. Measure reader activity

googleYou need to install some form of way to track a reader when they arrive on your publication. 2 things you must know:

  1. Which articles are the most popular. This will tell you what readers think is interesting and will cue you in as to what topics you might want to publish in the future.
  2. How did your readers get to your site (referring links). Referring links are links in from other websites. These other websites might be future partners for you. For instance in the soccer example, if you find a rugby blog referring to you in an article, you might want to reach out to them for networking purposes. Perhaps they’ll let you write a guest article on their site which will promote you and add value to to their readership.

Start by installing Google Analytics. It’s free and will deliver a tremendous amount of insight into what readers are actually doing on your publication. If you want a realtime view of your reader activity check out Chartbeat.

6. App integration

dkapp340Apps for your publication is a necessity, not an option.

According to Nielson89% of media consumption is consumed on mobile apps. Only 11% of media is consumed on mobile web. Check out their nifty chart:


We see the main benefits of app publishing as:

  1. Your publication will literally be in your reader’s pocket, with him or her everywhere
  2. With your app icon on their phone or tablet, it’s quick and easy to glance at your articles while standing in line somewhere
  3. 19Each new article lights up a badge, gently showing your reader that a new article has been published
  4. You can send out push notifications instantly to your readers for important news

So YES, if you run a publication, you need to publish into apps.

In the past developing apps was a costly proposition as each one had to be built from scratch and they were a standalone platform which meant you had to add content to both Apple and Android apps manually.

Today you can easily hook your apps to your WordPress publication to automatically publish your articles into the app stores (our UniPress platform).

7. Fast workflow

You need a platform that you and your staff can learn quickly. If you can run Microsoft Word you can run WordPress. WordPress has built in role management, drag and drop images into your articles, easily add video and audio and even has a great app for publishing on the run.

Most importantly, when you hit publish your articles will publish everywhere needed in 1 click:

  • onto the web for desktop reading, getting found in Google search, and social sharing
  • into Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social sites
  • automatically blast your email list
  • to your downloaded Apple and Android apps

Today WordPress makes content creation blazingly fast.

8. The invisible shield

wordpress-logo-notext-rgbWordPress also protects your platform decision for many years to come.

A. If you don’t know this, WordPress is open source and free and supported by a core team of developers at Automatic. Open source means that any developer in the world can improve the code, keep it up to date, and contribute updates back to WordPress for inclusion. That means you literally have more passionate developers improving WordPress than Google does… 10’s of thousands. It’s what makes WordPress so damn state of the art, easy to use and flexible.

B. You won’t get stuck with a proprietary system. This is one of the biggest and long term critical protections you need. If you build a publication with one developer or agency and decided to find someone else… you can move/give access to your site to your new developer… no sweat. I ran into a small nonprofit that had sunk $30,000 into a proprietary website and 2 years later decided they didn’t like the service level they had with their platform. They were stuck.

Outsource_to_Freelancers__IT_Companies__Programmers__Web_Designers_from_India__Russia__USA__and_more_-_oDesk_WordPress has the largest developer community in the world (formerly oDesk) alone has 130,000+ WordPress developers ready to help you. WordPress also has the greatest amount of customization options available today… over 37,000 plugins are available to easily add new functions your site.

C. WordPress is the leading publishing platform in the world. It handles almost 25% of all global website traffic and is used by the biggest publishers today that are on the front-lines of the web: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Atlantic Magazine, BBC, National Geographic, Harvard Gazette, Rolling Stone and millions of others.

  • There are currently over 60,000,000 sites and
  • Over 11 million downloads of WordPress 4.2 (the latest version) there are millions of older versions running, and 1 copy of WordPress could create 1000 sites (many do). The math gets tricky here but I think you get the idea

And here is a nice chart showing what the top 10,000 websites in the world are using:

top sites chart

Platform decision

So what platform should you use to accomplish all the above goals? By now you know what we recommend: WordPress.

WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.


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