The Future of Educational Publishing: multichannel made manageable

DAM, Multichannel

With a perpetual flow of new learners - from kindergarten to college - educational publishing is an evergreen industry. But that doesn’t mean it is without its challenges. From talent turmoil and digital disruption to inflation and ethical issues, educational publishers have a range of obstacles to navigate if they want to seize their share of the market.

The global digital educational publishing market is predicted to grow to $10.5 billion by 2026. How can educational publishers leverage this trend efficiently and profitably - especially against a backdrop of global inflation?

Education publishing faces tough challenges

The rising price of raw materials and energy is driving up production costs, reducing publishers’ profit margins. At the same time, educational publishers need to control prices as the cost of living crisis cuts deep. The market is already synonymous with high RRPs, education budgets are facing downward pressure, and - in 2021 - 65% of students admitted skipping buying textbooks because of the cost.

To continue to meet their remit to disseminate knowledge, some publishers are looking for ways to reduce costs such as lighter paper stock but experts predict prices may still need to rise by 10-20% in the current climate, raising ethical concerns about the impact on readers.

Like all sectors, publishers are also contending with staffing turmoil, new working practices, and supply chain issues stemming from the pandemic and global shutdowns.

At the same time, they’re facing digital disruption to publishing platforms and market demand, resulting in the need to achieve more outputs and manage change in a highly volatile landscape. Plus the prevalence of open-source materials and MOOCs challenge educational publishers to prove the added value they deliver for their price tag.

Against this backdrop, the adage to ‘do more with less’ becomes an imperative. Educational publishers need to improve efficiency, control costs, and protect both prices and profit margins. But internal factors represent serious barriers to this strategy.

We go into these in more detail in our ebook, The Educational Publishers’ Roadmap to Digital Transformation but they include

  • Increasing editorial and production complexity
  • Unfit-for-purpose legacy workflows
  • Print-centric mindsets
  • Exponential growth in digital assets
  • Siloed systems and staff

Fortunately, there is a solution that answers all of these challenges, providing light at the end of the tunnel for embattled educational publishers.


Mastering multichannel publishing and digital demand

The educational niche is perhaps more reliant on multichannel publishing than other publishing sectors.

According to research into educational publishing by WordsRated, 23% of students purchased at least one digital textbook in the last academic year. But 75% prefer a print textbook over digital, if price isn’t a factor. Plus 41% of colleges believe their students learn better from printed textbooks than digital versions. It seems - for many - that nothing beats poring over a physical textbook, annotating the margins, and highlighting important passages.

However, demand for digital resources is predicted to grow to $10.5 billion by 2026 - and educational publishers are already responding to increased demand. The interactivity of digital resources makes them highly appealing to educators and learners alike - from adding audio and video to bring material to life, to creating online tests to recap knowledge, and even monitoring student engagement with content. Lower production and distribution costs also allow publishers to pass on savings to end-users, making them a cost-effective learning tool.

In fact, digital innovation is cited as a key driver of growth in educational publishing over the coming years - including digital product development, subscription-based services, more direct integration with courseware, and more. It’s no wonder 44% of publishers cite accelerating digital transformation as their top strategic priority.

‘We’ve seen an explosion of demand for content in both print and digital formats. People no longer just want a physical textbook. They also want to be able to access that textbook online, or they expect tools or capabilities people built around that textbook.’

John Taylor
Head of Business systems and Operations, Macmillan Education

So how can educational publishers double down on digital content to supplement print, without doubling their costs and resources?

The Educational Publishers’ Roadmap to Digital Transformation

Here’s the secret to efficiently meeting the demand for digital and multichannel content in educational publishing.

Download now


The answer to efficiency in educational publishing

Efficient multichannel publishing is the endgame for strategic and ambitious publishers. To achieve this, organizations need to

  • Eradicate siloed teams based on outdated distinctions between print and digital products
  • Create a multichannel workflow that creates content for multiple formats simultaneously
  • Eliminate organic processes and homegrown systems holding back productivity

At present, too many publishing strategies are hampered by structures and workflows that have evolved from print-based production. For example, sequential processes that only start digital production on completion of a print textbook. Or parallel processes that duplicate effort in entirely different teams. These are not an efficient way to create content as they cause delays to market, incur additional costs, and risk inconsistency across channels.

The answer is an audit and realignment of your processes to your strategy. To rebuild your processes to deliver multichannel content in the most efficient way possible.

Many publishers shy away from this process as it is seen as less disruptive to continue making-do-and-mending broken systems. But in a highly competitive and challenging market, this is a watershed moment that will divide the pack into ‘dids’ and ‘did nots’.

Leaders who embrace the opportunity to redesign their editorial and production structures will reap benefits in efficiency, agility, innovation, and opportunity.

‘Print is always gonna be incredibly important to us but we're seeing an explosion in the demand for digital products and a shift in what people want to be able to do. We needed a smoother way to be able to create content for print and digital channels. We want to break down some of the barriers between print and digital production, so we have a media-agnostic environment. WoodWing enabled that.’

John Taylor
Head of Business systems and Operations, Macmillan Education

Multichannel publishing in practice

So what does multichannel publishing look like on the ground for educational publishers? How are other brands managing multichannel? WoodWing has over twenty years of experience partnering with publishers to deliver digital transformation. Here’s how our clients have done it.



1. Set your strategic direction

Digital transformation starts with strategy, not technology. Work out what you want to achieve and where you want to be in five years' time. This will help unlock big-picture thinking, instead of focusing on immediate ‘improvements’ to current processes.


2. Audit current processes

Once you know what you want to achieve, get onto the ground with your staff to understand how current processes will impact your ability. For example, print-centric approaches, siloed systems, workflow workarounds, bottlenecks, and frustrations. Senior managers must be involved in this process but you may find it helpful to work with an external consultant to facilitate things.


3. Ideate your dream state

Think about what your workflow, team structure, and systems would look like if you could design them from scratch. This will form the basis of your business transformation. How do teams create and collaborate? What is the most efficient team structure? What do workflows look like? Where does human input add value and what can be automated?


4. Identify supporting technology

From here, you’ll be able to identify the technology you need to implement to support your new workflows. Our clients typically implement our multichannel publishing platform (WoodWing Studio) and our Digital Asset Management platform (WoodWing Assets) to streamline collaboration, project management, editorial, production, design, approval, and publication from a single system.


5. Manage change

Change is challenging and often unwelcome - especially when your team is already under pressure. Be sure to support them through the change. Help the whole organization see the overall bigger picture of improvements - how five extra steps here means ten fewer steps there. Break big-picture strategy into smaller achievable goals. Understand there’ll be a learning curve and create psychological safety for that. And provide extra resources to cope with reduced operational capacity during the transition.

How WoodWing can help



All-in-one Content Creation Platform

Create, collaborate, approve and publish to EVERY channel with WoodWing Studio

Our editorial workflow solution empowers publishers, content agencies, and marketing teams of all sizes to create and publish content for digital and print channels. Simply prepare your copy and design - and simultaneously publish and format for every channel.

  • Create a seamless end-to-end workflow - from ideation to publication - whatever the channel
  • Write, edit, design, approve and publish from a single content creation software system
  • Boost efficiency by publishing to print and digital channels from a single system
  • Design faster with best-in-class integration with Adobe InDesign
  • Slash production times with automation - making time for creativity and strategy
  • Speed up approvals with task reminders, synchronous feedback, and audit trails
  • Integrates seamlessly with Adobe InDesign, InCopy, and more



Digital Asset Management Solution

Centralize, secure and leverage your digital assets with WoodWing Assets

Our digital asset management solution creates a ‘single source of truth’ for images, audio, video and more, making it easier for teams to find, share and use valuable assets in your creative projects. Use creative assets with confidence knowing exactly what permissions you have. Atomize and archive published content for profitable repurposing.

  • Centralize all of your digital assets for easier access and faster collaboration
  • Put assets at your fingertips - with powerful search and browse functionality
  • Receive and share digital assets securely online, with internal and external staff
  • Automatically crop, optimize and resize assets for the right format, every time
  • Create, disseminate and upload digital assets from tools you already use
  • Discover and repurpose content from your archive to unlock additional value


WoodWing Digital Publishing Services

Develop, launch and deliver successful digital products

WoodWing Digital Publishing Services is where successful publishers seek support to develop new digital products, fast. Our expert team helps publishers of all sizes to develop new digital products from scratch, convert print products into interactive digital experiences, build new DTC business models, syndicate their content, and more. We offer remote and on-site support that helps you:

  • Determine your digital publishing strategy
  • Create digital products from print publications
  • Delight customers on any device
  • Scale your production processes
  • Lower costs and time to market
  • Upskill your print team to digital publishing


WoodWing Creative Workflow Services

Devise, customize and implement your ideal content workflow

70% of digital transformations fail to achieve their goals. WoodWing creative workflow consultancy puts you in the 30%. Our experts will work with you to understand your strategy, audit your current processes, and turn them into seamless, tech-enabled workflows. Using our 5D delivery model, we’ll eliminate your bottlenecks and barriers, equipping you with efficient, scalable processes instead.

  • Discover your objectives
  • Define the problem
  • Design the solution
  • Develop the systems
  • Deploy the workflow

Your efficiency improvements start here

Book a call back from one of our publishing experts today. Tell us your challenges and we’ll start solving them with you.

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