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Multichannel Publishing

12 minutes of reading

Multichannel publishing and enterprise publishing – the complete guide

In this guide, we’ll be talking about two concepts – multichannel publishing and enterprise publishing. We’ve grouped them together because they’re very similar. Multichannel publishing is concerned with publishing content in various formats – typically across print and digital channels – and businesses of any size can engage in it. Enterprise publishing is concerned with the publishing activity of enterprises and large organizations. The scale of publishing activities in large organizations means they’re almost inevitably multichannel, too. So when we talk about multichannel and enterprise publishing in this guide, we’re essentially referring to the publication of content to multiple print and digital platforms – and how businesses can do this efficiently.

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Contents of this article:

What is multichannel publishing?

Multichannel publishing is when an organization publishes content to more than one channel or platform – including print, website, apps, social media, and third-party platforms. For example, multichannel publishing for an educational publisher might involve publishing the same content in printed volumes, in a digital format for e-readers, as well as a supporting website. A magazine publisher might publish content in their print editions, website, and app, plus syndicate content to external outlets.

The point of multichannel publishing is to distribute content to meet audiences where they are – their preferred media and platforms – to increase readership, reach, and, ultimately, revenue.

What is enterprise publishing?

Enterprise publishing describes the publishing activity of large businesses and enterprises. These organizations aren’t publishers in the traditional sense of the word. Content isn’t their product or primary business model. However, the nature and size of their businesses mean that they create, publish, and disseminate content at scale. For example, a large supermarket chain may have an ecommerce website, online editorial content, social media channels, an in-store magazine, plus other in-store collateral like promotional material and signage. And that’s just their customer-facing content. They may also have separate publishing activities for other audiences – for example, to support their employer brand, or to communicate effectively with their supply chain.

Enterprise publishing is almost always multichannel publishing. This is because big businesses typically have the strategic awareness and resources to deploy multiple channels to achieve their goals.

What do multichannel and enterprise publishing involve?

Enterprise and multichannel publishing will look different for different organizations. However, they typically include the following elements:

Multichannel content creation

Creating content for a range of different endpoints and technical specifications. Examples include print publications, owned and third-party websites, owned and third-party apps, email newsletters, podcasts, webinars, social media content, etc. This stage involves everything from ideating and commissioning content to creating, editing, and approving it – and preparing it for publication.

Multichannel content distribution

Strategically distributing content across multiple platforms and channels to reach the widest possible audience. This involves identifying the most relevant channels for reaching the target audience, optimizing content for each platform, and scheduling content releases for maximum impact.

Audience engagement

Using analytics – and digital access to readers – to actively engage with the audience and encourage brand loyalty. This can be at a general level – for example, a monthly ‘top picks’ email or subscription offer. Or at a granular and personalized level – for example, personalized content recommendations.

Analytics and optimization

Monitoring and analyzing performance metrics to measure the effectiveness of multichannel publishing efforts and optimize strategies for maximum impact. This includes tracking metrics such as engagement, reach, click-through rates, conversion rates, and audience demographics.

What are the benefits of multichannel publishing?

Multichannel publishing is an increasingly important part of publishers’ strategies. As a society, we are a demanding bunch. We expect to be able to consume content on whatever platform or device we want. And we expect to find the same content available on every platform. It isn’t just publishers facing these demands either. We have the same expectations of enterprise publishing – from retailers, for example. Who hasn’t been frustrated by seeing a special offer promoted in-store but not being able to find it online? Or visited a retailer’s website after seeing something of interest on social media? Consistent multichannel content is key for enterprise publishing, too.

Here are four reasons why multichannel publishing is a must:

Reaching bigger audiences

Consumers are accessing content through a wider variety of channels than ever before – from printed materials to different digital platforms and devices. By distributing content across multiple platforms – and optimizing it to look great wherever readers choose to engage – publishers can reach audiences who may not have been interested in traditional channels alone. This increases their potential audience size and their visibility in the market. It’s like scattering your seeds far and wide. The further you throw them, the more likely you are to hit fertile ground. Read more about how publishers can increase reach and revenue.

Engaging audiences more effectively

With increased access to different channels and devices, we have diverse preferences for how to access content – even changing based on the time and type of content we access (for example, mobile phones for quick reads but print or tablets for lengthier content). By offering content across different channels, publishers can cater to these varied preferences and increase the likelihood of different readers engaging with their content.

Enhancing your digital capabilities

When thinking about multichannel publishing, we’re often talking about traditional print-based publishers introducing digital channels. There are several main advantages of digital platforms over print:

  • They can include video and audio content that enhances storytelling and can increase engagement
  • They provide valuable data to refine and optimize content strategy – who’s reading what? What’s popular and what’s not?
  • They allow for personalized recommendations based on past behavior, which can further increase engagement
  • They make it easy to share content with friends – potentially introducing new readers to your brand

All of these factors can increase reader engagement and brand loyalty, as well as amplify the impact and reach of your content.

Diversifying revenue streams

As well as extending reach and readership, multichannel publishing also opens up new revenue streams. This revenue diversification protects publishers against relying on a single stream of income. Publishers can offer a wider range of subscriptions to appeal to different audience preferences – such as print-only, online-only, print + online access. Plus, the digital capabilities we described above are extremely valuable in terms of advertising sales, allowing publishers to provide high levels of targeting and ad personalization via their platforms.

Syndication, sponsored content and affiliate marketing programs are also potential revenue streams. Read more about how to grow your business with digital diversification and multichannel publishing in our comprehensive downloadable guide – Grow with Digital and Multichannel Publishing.

What are the challenges of multichannel publishing and enterprise publishing?

Of course, multichannel publishing isn’t all pros. Multichannel publishing is more complex than single-channel publishing. It may require a wholesale reinvention of publishing processes and the roles within a publishing business. However, for many publishers – who are facing declining print sales and increasing competition from online content – digital transformation is a must. Here are some of the challenges you need to be aware of with multichannel and enterprise publishing. Fortunately, none of these are insurmountable, as you’ll read later in this guide.

Process redesign

If you want to produce and publish multichannel content efficiently, legacy processes won’t work. Many traditional and single-channel publishers hit problems because they try to shoehorn digital content into print-based workflows. Or they add separate workflows for each new channel they want to target. This won’t work. To create multichannel content efficiently and cost-effectively, you will need to redesign your processes – from editorial workflows to production and publication. You’ll also need to reimagine job roles and upskill your workforce in multichannel publishing. However, the good news is, once you’ve overcome this hurdle, you’ll be set for much greater efficiency and impact.

Content adaptation

If you’re creating content in channel-specific workflows, you’ll hit one of two problems: you’ll either be duplicating work – by creating the same content for different channels – or you’ll have to adapt content created for one channel to suit another.

Every channel is different on a number of levels:

  • Some channels are suited to different types of content – e.g. short and snappy on social media, but long-form in print
  • Some channels have word limits – e.g. print – where online content can be longer
  • Channels have different technical specifications – e.g. size and resolution of images, ability to include video, etc.

The solution to these challenges is to implement a channel-neutral approach to content creation – sometimes called channel-agnostic. This means that you create a single piece of content and then use rules and automation to optimize it for different channels.

Building a value proposition

An often underestimated challenge in multichannel publishing is creating a value proposition for new channels. Imagine you’re a magazine publisher that wants to launch a digital subscription option for readers who want to access your content online and via an app. To make that attractive, you need to offer more than just access to current and new content. You need to provide readers with access to your back catalog. This ensures they get value for money, can find a breadth of content that engages them, and provide you with enough data to start personalizing content recommendations. That archive content may very well be inaccessible – locked away in InDesign files and requiring a significant investment of time to surface and repurpose it. However, for publishers willing to make the necessary investment, re-using that content makes great business sense.

Content chaos

Another major challenge of multichannel and enterprise publishing is how busy and chaotic it can be. There’s the challenge of creating content at scale – and managing all of the contributors, content pieces, documents, and digital assets associated with them. Then there’s the added complication of potential organizational silos, version control, approval workflows, quality control,…

Fortunately, this is another challenge that can be overcome through process redesign and the use of appropriate software – namely multichannel publishing software and digital asset management software.

In-house expertise

Single-channel publishers are often specialists in their particular field of publishing – experts in the intricacies of print specifications, typesetting, etc. But – as we’ve established – different channels have different technical specifications and needs. So when a publisher digitally diversifies and adds more channels, they need new knowledge and skillsets – at pace. This can mean hiring in new skills, upskilling existing employees, or working with an external agency to help them quickly add new capabilities to their team.

Many publishers choose to outsource digital design and development at this early stage of their diversification journey. Working with external digital publishing services lets them expand fast and upskill existing staff along the way.

Single vs multichannel publishing: side-by-side comparison

  Single-Channel Publishing Multichannel Publishing
Channels Typically limited to one primary channel, e.g. print or radio Multiple channels, e.g. print, websites, apps, social media, and third parties
Reach/ visibility Limited reach confined to audience of single channel Expanded reach across diverse audiences on various platforms
Revenue streams Reliant on single revenue stream Diversified revenue streams and potential for growth
Analytics Limited insights into audience behavior and content performance Analytics and insights across multiple channels, enabling content optimization
Complexity Lower complexity due to focus on a single channel and straightforward workflows Higher complexity due to the need to manage content across multiple channels
Potential Limited potential – constrained by the reach and limitations of a single channel Greater potential thanks to expanded reach, engagement, and revenue diversification

 

Does more multichannel/ enterprise publishing mean more complexity?

There’s no denying that multichannel publishing means more complexity. But only at first. Once you’ve established appropriate multichannel processes, staffing, and software, you’ll find the complexity is entirely manageable. One of the keys to managing multichannel and enterprise publishing complexity is automation. Automating workflows eliminates much of the manual work and unnecessarily time-consuming elements of the publishing process.

Automation examples in multichannel and enterprise publishing

  • Automating approval processes by having tasks automatically allocated to the next responsible person in the chain, once the previous task is completed. This creates a seamless, admin-free process
  • Automating image versioning, so every image is automatically optimized for print, web, social media, different crops, etc.
  • Automating layout, by creating rules that flow content into pre-designed templates for print, web, apps, etc.
  • Automating archiving, so that published content is automatically tagged and discoverable within a Digital Asset Management solution for future access and repurposing

By automating routine processes, publishers can achieve greater efficiency and consistency across multiple channels, reducing manual labor, minimizing the risk of human error, and freeing up time for more creative and strategic activities.

Most people nowadays are not stuck on just one platform to consume the media content they are interested in - they too use a multichannel approach

Multichannel and enterprise publishing success stories

The New York Times

The New York Times is a prime example of a publisher that has successfully embraced a multichannel strategy to expand its audience reach and engagement. At the end of Q4 in 2020, The New York Times announced its digital revenue had overtaken print. Its digital subscription revenue – which had been its fastest-growing revenue stream for a long time – had become its largest.

Hearst Magazines

Hearst Magazines faced declined print subscriptions and overly complex multichannel workflows. By working with WoodWing, the publishing giant completely redesigned its editorial and production workflow. The result was to amalgamate print and digital teams into a single effective multichannel workforce, increasing adaptability and resource utilization. Plus creating efficient workflows to create channel-neutral content suitable for print and digital use.

Migrating to a true multichannel publishing solution allowed Hearst Magazines to enjoy a streamlined production workflow, especially when it comes to creating digital edition content for various mobile platforms.

Michael K. Sweet, WoodWing USA

The Financial Times

The Financial Times transformed its business with a multichannel strategy that emphasizes digital innovation and audience engagement. In the late noughties, the FT invested in its own digital platform, citing the need to increase its reach and attractiveness to a new breed of readers. It also recognized the value of data analytics available from digital publishing, with then MD Rob Grimshaw telling InPublishing:

We now have insight into how they relate to content, the kinds of articles they choose, how often they come to the site – all of which now drives our marketing.

Rob Grimshaw, The Financial Times

As a result, the FT has seen a huge increase in revenue from its digital platforms. In 2019, the Financial Times had one million total subscribers spanning digital and print customers. In 2022, it hit one million digital subscriptions and digital journalism revenues are now equal to all of its other revenue streams combined.

Read how global publishers like Hearst and BuzzFeed use WoodWing software and services to scale their multichannel and enterprise publishing initiatives.

How to transition to multichannel publishing

If transitioning to multichannel publishing sounds attractive, here are key steps you’ll need to take along your journey. This is very much the headline news. Find out more in our guide to multichannel publishing.

Develop your multichannel publishing strategy

Begin by defining clear objectives and goals for your multichannel publishing efforts. What are you hoping to achieve by adopting a multichannel publishing approach?

  • Identify your target audiences, understand their behavior and desired channels
  • Ensure you have key performance indicators (KPIs) to guide your strategy
  • Consider how each channel aligns with your brand identity and audience preferences
  • Think about how you’ll monetize your new channels and create a coherent pricing strategy

Redesign your people, process, and technology

Next, think about how your technology, processes, and roles need to change to support this strategy. You may find it helpful to work with an external publishing consultancy at this stage. They can use their industry expertise to help you find solutions you might not know exist.

Technology
Leveraging digital technologies – such as PubTech, multichannel publishing software, DAM software, content management systems (CMS), and analytics platforms – will help you streamline creation, distribution, and engagement monitoring. Read how publishers and enterprises can revolutionize their processes with multichannel publishing tech.

Processes
Evaluate your existing publishing workflows and identify areas that need to be adapted or redesigned for a multichannel approach. Don’t just shoehorn additional channels into existing workflows – that won’t work! Develop new content-neutral workflows that feed every channel.

People
Review and redefine roles. You may need completely new roles – like technologists – or you may need to redesign existing roles – like combining print and web editing into a single channel-neutral editorial role. Consider how you’ll train and upskill existing staff, and supplement your workforce with temporary expertise if needed.

Digitize existing content

If you’re planning to launch a subscription model – or just become more reader-centric by providing content in multiple formats – you’ll need to digitize existing content. This will help you build a body of content to make digital subscriptions more attractive. Again, an external agency can help you overcome this particular hurdle quickly and advance your strategy at pace.

Essential software for multichannel and enterprise publishing

Every business will arrive at a slightly different configuration of software for their multichannel or enterprise publishing efforts. For example, some will use an editorial workflow platform, others may choose a CMS. What’s essential is that your software stack is fully integrated, to ensure efficient workflows, collaboration, and automation.

Multichannel publishing software

Multichannel publishing software streamlines content creation and publishing across diverse platforms including print, websites, social media, and email. It includes workflow management for everything from copy submission and editorial approval processes to design for multiple endpoints, as well as distribution.

Digital Asset Management (DAM) system

DAM software is easy to implement, which makes it the hidden hero of multichannel publishing. It’s more than just a media library providing instant access to images, video, and artwork. It can also automate image editing, layout automation, archiving, and more. It integrates with all other PubTech and content creation systems to create seamless time-saving workflows. Read about how to choose the right DAM for you.

Analytics platforms

Analytics platforms provide insights into audience behavior, content performance, and campaign effectiveness across channels. This helps you refine your approach and deliver ever-more relevant content and experiences to readers – thus increasing the likelihood of you being a brand they’re willing to pay for.

Email and customer engagement platforms

An often overlooked part of the software stack for multichannel publishing is a customer engagement platform. Using analytics from your digital platforms, you can message users via email, SMS, in-app, etc. – according to their permissions – to promote new content and increase engagement.

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) software

If you are an enterprise engaged in publishing large volumes of content, you may benefit from using a system for Enterprise Content Management. This can be tailored to deliver much of the same functionality as a publishing system, with the added benefit of being useful elsewhere in the organization.

Master multichannel and enterprise publishing with WoodWing

Discover WoodWing’s tried-and-trusted multichannel publishing software, WoodWing Studio. Designed to create seamless multichannel publishing workflows – so you can accelerate, automate, scale, and diversify your publishing business.


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Published on March 11, 2024

Magdalena Ivanova

Magdalena is a digital marketer and tech enthusiast with multiple marketing disciplines under her belt. Her articles cover various topics, including all things marketing, digital asset management, interviews, and opinions.

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