Embracing the ‘digital first’ model with BETV

The May/June 2016 edition of InPublishing magazine included a quote from Condé Nast MD Nicholas Coleridge, who gave The Marcus Morris Lecture at the annual PPA Festival: “No-one collects websites”.

In their infancy, digital platforms were seen as a sort of archive for previously printed content, with content simply copied and pasted onto the relevant website without much strategic thinking.

However, as more and more people expect original content online and for free, publishers are increasingly switching to a ‘digital first’ model.

The ‘digital first’ model is not the death knell for print.

Publishers are instead rethinking how magazines can add value for the reader and complement their digital output.

So, back to Coleridge – no-one collects websites, and it’s true that a printed product has that ‘collectable’ aspect. This is particularly relevant for Dialogue, as our magazines largely go out to engaged, membership groups who want to feel a sense of community. Collecting the magazines affiliated with that group certainly reinforces that sense of belonging.

Unlike websites, which can be constantly updated, adjusted and added to, there’s also a sense of print being a ‘finished’ product. Readers feel that a printed article in their hands is a considered and well-rounded summary of the subject matter, giving print an authority that it can be difficult for the web to harness.

Creating digital content without detracting from print becomes the mission.

The best way of doing this without giving away all your content for free seems to be publishing choice snippets of your content for free via digital platforms, saving meatier content and in-depth analysis for print. This also appeals to the way in which people like to interact with content online – it needs to be snappy, brief and scan-able.

BETV content lends itself well to the ‘digital first’ model.

A good example of ‘digital first’ is Dialogue’s work for British Eventing and the creation of BETV, launched earlier this year.

The online video channel features event highlight videos, rather than event reports. The idea is to make events look exciting and aspirational, so viewers wish they were there. This means we are not detracting from event attendance, which is vital for the prosperity of the sport, but nor are we making our magazine content null and void.

The reports in the magazine feature lengthy interviews with top riders, not just short vox pops, and in-depth analysis of the day’s competition from experts. The magazine also has the luxury of revelling in the quirky, hidden stories of the people who attend events, such as the volunteer who has been attending the same event for 50 years.

The BETV training content also works well in this model. A video of someone riding correctly is easier to interpret than still images and a description, but the length of a printed piece gives us the luxury to explore the topic and ‘troubleshoot’ for readers – if it’s not going right for you, here are several reasons why and solutions you can try.

In this way, one concept, event report or any content really becomes an omni-channel piece of content – the magazine directs people to the relevant BETV content and BETV content is explored further in the magazine, creating a cycle of reference points for the reader and a great immersion in the British Eventing brand.

The BETV project is still in its infancy, but we’re certainly putting the right foot (or hoof?) forward.

Is ‘digital first’ the future for content marketing? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter.