Four tips for successful publisher transformation through DTC strategy


Business transformation, Direct-to-Consumer strategy, digital publishing, and paywall products are high on the agenda for ambitious publishers.

If you’re thinking about transforming your publishing business with a DTC strategy, here’s some help to get started from two of WoodWing’s digital publishing experts.

1. Remember, digital transformation isn’t just about tech…

The first point that our experts agree on is that digital transformation isn’t just about the tech. Advances in technology and publishing software have created opportunities to change how organizations deliver their services and products. But the real driving force behind this transformation is people.

Technology is fundamental. But engaging people is where the transformation happens. Transformation isn’t about automation or migration. It’s when people are empowered to work and collaborate in a different way.’ says Craig Llewelyn-Williams, principal consultant at The App Lab and digital product development expert.

This requires careful consideration, consultation, and change management throughout the transformation process. From the early stages - where senior managers need to hear about the day-to-day production processes from the experts who deliver them - to later stages where new processes need to be cascaded and embedded effectively.

Transparency is essential, especially when transformation touches every process within the organization.

Digital transformation is a team game,’ explains John Fong, Head of WoodWing Digital Services. ‘From the CEO to the photo artworkers, everyone needs to understand how the end-to-end process is being improved. They need to understand that doing two extra steps here saves ten steps there. If you look in isolation, it can look like things are getting worse, not better. It’s essential that everyone can see the whole process - downstream and upstream - and understand the overall benefits’.

Key takeaways

  • People - not technology - are the true drivers of process transformation
  • Careful change management is essential - to influence and empower people
  • End-to-end transparency makes change easier to implement
  • On-the-ground experts should inform new processes
  • Leaders should cascade and champion change from the top

2. Don’t just digitize - revolutionize

Depending on the digital maturity of your organization, you may just be starting to think about digitizing manual processes. Or you may have already digitized processes and are now thinking about automation and workflow optimization.

Before you commit to any course of action based on current processes, remember this. Publishing technologies, platforms, and opportunities are constantly evolving. And what worked well once, may have been eclipsed by something new.

Successful publishers make it their job to scan the horizon regularly for new technology and innovation. This means they’re ahead of the curve - and their competitors - when it comes to leveraging new opportunities.

‘Publishers are sometimes limited in their aspirations for and understanding of the transformation opportunity,’ explains Craig Llewelyn-Williams. ‘They’re looking at ways to streamline and find efficiencies in their existing processes and workflows. But efficiency innovation isn’t the only type of innovation.’

‘The real opportunity is that technology can unlock whole new business models for revenue and growth. Publishers can move from optimizing the business model they currently have to explore new DTC models where they can truly exploit the multichannel opportunity for growth. There’s a stronger business case than ever to review how you’re doing things.’

For example, a publisher that used automation tools to streamline their separate print and digital publishing workflows may see some efficiency gains. But not the same transformative gains they’d achieve if they unified their print and digital workflows into a single channel-neutral approach (see below).

Key takeaways

  • The transformation opportunity is bigger than just improving efficiency
  • Horizon scanning and early adoption position publishers for success
  • Channel-neutral content is a key driver of business transformation for publishers

From print-centric to cross-channel publishing: How workflow evolution supports your DTC transformation

Download our extensive 6,500-word ebook to discover exactly what the DTC opportunity for publishers is and how you an take advantage of it:

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3. Go channel-neutral for increased agility

Channel-neutral publishing is about creating and formatting content once, so that it can be easily published to multiple channels. Instead of having separate processes (and people) for print and digital products, channel-neutral unites them all in a single streamlined workflow - as John Fong, Managing Director at WoodWing Digital Services explains.

The channels change. But articles are fundamentally the same, wherever you publish them. They comprise the same editorial and design elements. The body copy. The headline. The byline. The captions. Channel-neutral publishing is about breaking down and identifying every part of an article, so it can be easily recognized and rebuilt on any platform.

Channel-neutral content is prepared in an HTML ready format that makes it suitable to publish on any platform. It can also be accompanied by media that automatically adjusts to the technical requirements of different platforms. This means one editor can create a story and publish it to multiple channels, each one optimized for the best reader experience.

The channel-neutral approach positions ambitious publishers for future success by making content available for easier experimentation and faster product development.

With your content ready to syndicate to any platform - regardless of technical requirements - you minimize the upfront cost of experimenting with new platforms. You can take a test-and-learn approach, extending your reach via new channels and seeing what works.

At the moment, every new channel requires time, process change, and cost-benefit decisions about how production can accommodate it. People are trying to think of new workflows into new channels. Whereas, with a channel-neutral approach, the content is there and ready to go. It’s a different story. Having content ready - in an HTML format - ready to go to multiple endpoints. That’s the endgame for publishers looking for the agility to harness emerging opportunities,’ says Llewelyn-Williams.

Key takeaways

  • Channel-neutral content can be published more easily to ANY channel
  • It reduces production time for multichannel publishers
  • And reduces upfront costs of experimentation and syndication

Discover WoodWing Studio for efficient channel-neutral and multichannel publishing.

4. Balance automation and outsourcing

To develop, launch, and successfully onboard users to new digital products, many publishers outsource to a publishing services provider like WoodWing Digital Services. You must weigh up the pros, cons, and best engagement model as part of your DTC strategy.

Automation and outsourcing design can help publishers scale their output quickly. Whilst this will appeal to stakeholders concerned with growth, finance, and efficiency, it might meet resistance from your designers and art directors.

These creatives are an irreplaceable part of your content and value-creation process. But certain manual processes are labor-intensive and unnecessary in the age of automation. By letting your software take care of the things designers no longer NEED to. It frees them up for the creative thinking that delights your audience and adds value to your brand.

Creatives don’t want their processes fully automated. But they do want to minimize the fiddly bits that distract them from their creative work and introduce room for error,’ explains Craig Llewelyn-Williams of The App Lab. ‘Automation should be about making their roles more creative and fulfilling - and mobilizing new digital products quickly - never about taking away their autonomy or control.

If you’re a traditional publisher that lacks digital publishing expertise, your in-house teams can work alongside the design service provider to upskill. This is certainly how WoodWing Digital Services works with its clients. This approach can be more affordable - and less disruptive - than hiring new skills into the business.

Key takeaways

  • Automate areas where human input doesn’t add extra value
  • Communicate the benefits of automation to creatives - more time for what they love
  • Outsource to mobilize quickly - and upskill in-house

Next steps

Opportunities abound for publishers willing to embrace digital transformation - both of the products they sell and the processes they use to create them. Global publishers and major brands trust WoodWing to support them on this journey. And you can too…



The multichannel publishing software Hearst Magazines and major global publishers use to digitally transform their processes


Our digital services that allow publishers to develop, design, and launch digital products at speed - on platforms like Apple News+


On customer desirability in DTC publishing and find out how to create value people are willing to pay for

Magdalena Ivanova, Product Marketing Manager

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, opinions etc. 
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