In the old days, the publisher’s world in the offline print business was simple.

The industry’s three basic priorities included:

  1. Target group selection: reach, advertisers, copy price.

  2. Editorial team organisation: editors, producer.

  3. Sales force: distribution, media sales.

The result was one product, one price, one target group, and one need to satisfy.

The digital era started nearly the same for desktop browser Web sites: one Web site, all for free, one (broader) target group, and one need to satisfy.

But the digital world has opened up in complicated ways. Internet usage is no longer concentrated on the desktop; we are using the Internet as a news source everywhere and at all times; and we have absolutely different needs to satisfy!

We now develop products for three target groups with very different backgrounds and behaviours:

  1. Print natives, who consider print their preferred news sources, consume between one and three daily news sources, and hold fast to their rituals.

  2. Cross-media users, who are social media starters, still consider print a high-quality, trusted source, and consume three to six news sources daily.

  3. Digital natives, who are news-driven, always connected, and consult as many as 15 news sources daily, including professionals and friends.

To reach the targets and to establish valuable editorial products, every news publisher must diversify its product portfolio. This means delivering the same content to multiple products.

How many products a publisher should create depends on the same key performance indicators (KPIs) that drive product development in the offline world: reach, production costs, and revenues.

As an example, let’s take a quick look at the tablet market.

Two years ago, the content products were more or less animated newspapers, with one publication date, strictly limited content, and no social media integration. Today, nearly all of these projects have given up or will die this year.

Why? The new products lost the typical and learned print navigation. And they were too static. So they were stuck in the middle: too funky for the print natives; not enough value-added content for cross-media users; and too boring for the digital natives.

One simple improvement was switching to PDFs for article views and some helpful features. It provides ease of use for print natives and cross-media users, a highly automated production process, and standardised advertising.

But this momentum will not save us tomorrow. The digital natives will dominate news demand five years from now, if not sooner. Until then, we have to create perfect content products to meet the needs of all three user types, especially if we want money for our products.

For a successful future, the rule remains the same: Milk your cows and invest in your stars!