Skip to content

Taking it online: Adapting print to a digital environment

Globe Edge Content Studio senior editor Simon Beck recently shared a blog on why there’s still a strong case to be made for creating high quality branded magazines. This week, we’ll examine why you should take that print product online, and why it’s not just a matter of cutting and pasting.

You’ve created a beautiful, well-written, high-quality print product and distributed it to your targeted lists, receiving immeasurable praise in the process.

Now what?

Whether you’re looking to sell products, increase donations or further brand lift, creating an online hub for your content can be a great next step for extending a campaign. You’ve already invested in the content — licensing it to be published in an online format is a cost-effective way to exponentially increase your reach. Since page views, scroll depth, conversions and other actions are all trackable, you can learn more about how your visitors engage with your content than you could with a printed product.

According to ComScore, 30.5 million Canadians are online. Whether you’re looking to reach all of them, or only women aged 32 to 34 who live within five kilometres of Moose Jaw, Sask., and have an interest in tea sets, and/or cop shows and/or jogging, targeted content can help you reach them.

The catch is that these audiences can be fickle, and there are many factors that affect how they will engage with your content.

Should the articles populate as a list or in a carousel format? Does that cool plugin work on older browsers? How much load time is too long? Does the site need to be mobile responsive or mobile optimized (and what’s the difference anyway)?

These questions might seem all too familiar to anyone who’s tried to build a site or content hub in the past. Any they’re all important. But when adapting content from a print publication to a digital environment, they’re just the starting point.

The way people engage with content online is fundamentally different from how they read long-form print publications. (You can read here, here and here if you want to know more.) Online visitors have short attention spans and they are far more likely to bounce away if you don’t get their attention immediately. Plus, unlike picking up a print publication, they are a multitude of ways in which they can first experience your content, so there needs to be a well thought out strategy for optimizing individual pages to encourage a deeper dive into the content or your visitors are likely to bounce away.

Mobile usage has only exacerbated these trends. A widely publicized study last year (here, here and here) found that since 2000 people’s online attention spans dropped from 12 to eight seconds, meaning we now collectively have shorter average attention spans than goldfish.

This doesn’t mean you have to dumb down the content you post online, it just means you have to rethink the way you, as a content creator, package content for digital consumption.

The digital version of the Sunnybrook magazine
The digital version of the Sunnybrook magazine

A great example of this is our content studio’s work on the recent Sunnybrook Magazine, done for a Toronto-based healthcare organization. After creating a premium print publication, we paired it with an online version hosted on the Globe and Mail’s website.

Using a custom template we were able to mirror the look and feel of the magazine in a mobile-responsive design that was quick to load and easy to read. Because we’ve been working with Sunnybrook for a few years, we were also able to create links to relevant articles from older editions on the same hub — something you could only do with a digital version of a magazine.

Online visitors see long-form copy or video as an investment of their time and energy. Make them know it’s worth it in an easy to consume and fast-loading format and they’ll stick with you. And if you’re really lucky, they’ll even share it with their own networks.

There may be nothing like the luxurious “weightiness” of a magazine product, but nothing beats the reach potential, flexibility of form and forward-thinking savviness of a well-built, digital content hub.


Michael Rajzman is a digital strategist for Globe Edge, The Globe and Mail’s content studio. He can be reached @mrajzman

See all Ideas & Insights