The Digital Publishing Landscape

The Digital Publishing Landscape

The Digital Publishing Landscape

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Written by Casey Botticello

January 13, 2021

Digital publishing includes the digital publication of e-books, digital magazines, and the development of digital libraries and catalogues. It also includes an editorial aspect, that consists of editing books, journals or magazines that are mostly destined to be read on a screen (computer, e-reader, tablet, smartphone).

However, in the context of digital content creation as part of the growing passion economy, digital publishing specifically refers to a subset of platforms that help content creators:

digital publishing features in the passion economy

These platforms all help content creators connect with and monetize an audience. Some of the popular tools offered by these platforms to entice content creators are hosted blogging platforms, newsletter creation platforms, e-commerce tools, membership subscription services, and premium gated content.

What is The Passion Economy?

Over the past four decades, most workers have been losing out in terms of negotiating power and wages. Globalization, the decline of unions and automation have made it significantly harder for the middle class to thrive.

For workers, this economy meant that it was best to conform, to follow the rules and show employers that they could accommodate their needs. Not following the rules meant taking risks that could jeopardize your livelihood. But becoming a mere cog in the well-oiled machine of the mass economy came with its trade-off: job stability and a decent pay.

However, this trade-off has lead to many workers having to work long hours in jobs that they hate, merely to survive. Many of those who have opted out of the “traditional” workforce are part of the gig economy.

This “gig economy” was marketed as the path to increased personal freedom and the chance to “be your own boss.”

In the gig economy, workers could easily monetize their time in specific, narrow services like food delivery, parking, or transportation. The platforms were convenient for both the user and the provider: since they took care of traditional business hurdles like customer acquisition and pricing, they allowed the worker to focus solely on the service rendered.

While these gig platforms offered workers some increased control of their time, the work was still largely unsatisfying to many.

This lead to the rise of the “passion economy,” which is based on individual knowledge-intensive skills, as opposed to commoditization task fulfillment.

Some examples of workers monetizing their individuality through platforms that power the passion economy:

Passion Economy Platforms

The passion economy is partly driven by a desire from workers to highlight their individuality. But it is also driven by the rise of many digital platforms that have enabled creators to monetize their content, knowledge, or skills. Below are some of the top platforms within the digital publishing sector that are competing for creators (organized by platform vertical).

Digital Publishing Platforms by Vertical

1. Pre-Monetized Blogging Platforms (Medium, HubPages, Steemit, Vocal, etc.)

Medium is one of the best examples of the digital publishing platforms that have enabled content creators to monetize their writing. Readers are charged a subscription fee to access stories across the entire Medium platform. Medium features stories from both amateur writers and major media publications. Writers on Medium are compensated through the Medium Partner Program. The amount of money a writer makes is proportionate to the amount of time readers spend engaging with their stories. 

In this arrangement, Medium functions as a marketplace for writers looking to monetize their work. Medium’s marketplace is entirely plug and play, meaning writers can sign up and start earning revenue with minimal set-up. 

Medium benefited from an early mover advantage as well as a financial advantage. Medium has received over 150 million in private funding and its founder, Ev Williams (co-founder of Twitter) has substantial personal wealth.

However, despite these advantages, Medium has struggled to define its business model. Although Medium has labeled itself a platform, it has at times tried to be a publisher as well.

A publisher is in the business of creating content and growing readership. Medium saw an opportunity to create a new kind of publisher. Unlike traditional publications, Medium incentivizes an army of independent journalists and writers to produce a constant stream of good quality content. The advantage of Medium’s approach under the “publisher” model is that it doesn’t have to employ a large number of writers or any at all. It needs to grow its readership (in particular readers who are willing to pay for content) and figure out the best way to distribute revenue from subscriptions to the writers.

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Medium-as-a-publisher provided readers with much broader and diverse content created by the army of independent writers and journalists. It’s worth the $5 per month subscription because you can’t get content from such diverse topics from many other publications. Subscriptions to a combination The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, The Atlantic, and other major publications, would cost users $250+ year.

A platform, on the other hand, provides tools for publishers to create and publish content, as well as engage and grow readerships and subscriptions. The responsibility for growing audiences lies in the hands of publishers, not the platform. The value of the platform comes from making it easy for publishers to create publications and engage readers.

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Medium-as-a-platform interested many publications because it promised to solve their tech, infrastructure, and SEO problems. Publishers want to create content, not deal with the headache of constantly maintaining their own platform. Not only is it challenging to replicate the site aesthetics of platform like Medium, but is is also expensive, requiring a staff of several people.

Both models are valid when viewed by themselves are viable. But they are fundamentally incompatible when used together. If you are a publisher, you have to focus on content discovery and readership growth. If you are a platform, you need to focus on infrastructure and readership engagement tools while accommodating the needs of publishers, or independent writers, to manage their publications.

The result of these two conflicting business models?

Medium is fighting off several other platforms who are offering writers clear (and potentially more lucrative) business models and platforms. A prime example of this is Substack, which is discussed in the following section.

 Medium Alternatives

Although Medium is probabaly the largest player in the

2. Newsletter Publishing Platforms

Substack is another popular digital publishing platform powering the passion economy, and perhaps the most popular of the newsletter-specific publishing platforms. However, unlike Medium, Substack’s business model involves hosting subscription newsletter creation tools for writers.

Substack requires creators to work independently to acquire customers (Medium provides a built in audience, with its Partner Program). Substack helps with distribution—providing tools for newsletter marketing, analytics, built in payment processing for multi-tiered subscriptions limited CRM functionality, and an easy to use email marketing system—but writers are largely responsible for growing their own newsletters.

Substack poses a threat to Medium because, as a SaaS tool (as opposed to a marketplace tool), Substack offers more financial upside for creators who already have a large customer base. There are several ways in which newsletter creation platforms (such as Substack) threaten marketplace tools, such as Medium:

  • Substack will poach top writer talent from Medium. Medium has attempted to slow this “platform brain drain” by keeping in place various systems that are frustrating to Medium writers, but are effective in discouraging these writers from starting on a new platform. The most obvious example of this is Medium’s low level of email list portability and the difficulty of communication with followers. As explained in the previous section, Medium has attempted to act as both a publisher and platform. This moat is largely superficial, though, as platforms like Substack prove. Since Medium requires no exclusivity from its writers, most writers eventually will make the determination that “owning their own email list” and being able to communicate with their followers, independent of Medium as an intermediary, is worth leaving the platform over.
  • Substack’s current business model is much more scalable than Medium’s business model. Medium is a marketplace where writers can easily monetize their writing. Substack is a SaaS tool which simply provides the technical infrastructure allowing writers to create their own newsletters. In the Substack model, newsletter writers are responsible for all writing, editorial planning, marketing, and ultimately building an audience. Substack makes money by charging a processing fee which is a percentage of a newsletters revenue. Medium’s model relies upon content curation, (some) editorial direction, and it needs to manually moderate content. All of this is time intensive and expensive, making it hard to scale.
  • Medium’s model was successful in driving growth over the past 8 years, but it also was effectively subsidized heavily by large venture capital investments. It is tricky to say since Medium is a privately held company, but there is no evidence that Medium is actually profitable. Substack, by its very design is much more likely to achieve profitability, first or faster. The team required to run Substack is very lean, and the marginal cost of adding a new newsletter to their network is extremely small.
  • Substack’s business model aligns the financial interests of writers and Substack better than the financial interests of Medium writers and Medium as a company. If I publish my writing on Substack, Substack only makes money if I succeed in selling subscriptions to my newsletter. Medium, by contrast, benefits from the content provided freely by writers. Medium writers, however, have little ability to control their earnings. They are dependent upon earnings that Medium allocates (Medium currently uses Member Reading Time to proportionately allocate earnings). Let’s say I write an article on Medium that goes viral through organic search traffic. This article could earn a very small amount of money (or none at all) because writers are only paid for reading time from paid medium subscribers. In the most extreme case, is is possible that I could write a viral article with millions of views, receiving little or no compensation for my effort, and Medium would reap the full upside of the article’s success as this helps boost paid platform reader subscriptions.

While Substack does have some advantages over Medium, I am not saying that Medium will collapse. I am also not ruling out the possibility that Substack itself will fail.

Why?

 

  •  Substack is not competing for passion economy creators in a vacuum. Substack faces direct competition from platforms such as Revue or Buttondown. Further, the service offered by Substack is not proprietary, meaning additional competitors could enter the field at any given time.
  • Substack is vulnerable to “platform brain drain” much like Medium. In the case of Substack, top earning publications can and sometimes already have left Substack, in order to avoid paying Substack their fee or because they want to build a custom publishing platform, designed to meet their followers needs better.
  • Substack newsletters face less direct, but strong competition from private membership communities. These online community building platforms contain a wide range of features (with a newsletter being among the simpler platform features.

3. Video Publishing / Streaming Platforms

Twitch is a leading live video streaming platform, which caters to the viewers with videos of different genres, ranging from music, cooking, Q&A, and instructional sessions, to video games and everything in between. It is just like YouTube, but with only live videos. Launched in 2011 by Justin Kan, Twitch made its initial impact catering to a niche of online gamers and got acquired by Amazon in 2014.

Live streaming on Twitch is quite easy as well. You have to download the Twitch App, register, and log in. Then you will have to click on your profile image tab (upper left corner) and click the Go Live option, follow it up by setting the video stream, and just like that, you are broadcasting live. When the viewers are watching the live stream, the split-screen display shows what the broadcaster is seeing on his/her monitor.

If we talk about traffic, then in the second quarter of 2019 it was recorded that Twitch streamed 2.72 billion hours, leaving behind YouTube with just 736 million hours of video streaming. It is proof enough that Twitch is preferred more by the viewers than YouTube Live. If we talk about online games live-streaming, in the first quarter of 2020, Twitch had a recorded viewership of 1.49 billion streams, followed by YouTube Gaming with 461 million, FaceBook Gaming with 291 million, and Mixer with a mere 37.106 million streams. Periscope did not even make the list.

When your audience grows, so does your potential to earn money. But there are a few ways you can cash in as you’re still growing your following:

Donations

Twitch users like to support their own. One of the main ways they do this is by donating money to their favorite streamers. Add a “donate” button to your channel — via PayPal or a third-party app, such as Streamlabs — and let viewers show you the money.

Brand Partnerships

Companies use Twitch streamers to get their products in front of people, and the streamers get a kickback in return. This is typically referred to as a partner or affiliate relationship (not to be confused with Twitch’s partner and affiliate programs, more on that later).
Affiliate opportunities for Twitch streamers can come from companies that sell hardware and software, energy drinks and accessories, such as headsets and chairs. Commissions vary, but for example, Razer — the hardware and software company — offers affiliates up to 20% commission on the sale of its products.
Brands don’t typically come to you unless you’re a big-time gamer. Talk with other streamers to suss out affiliate opportunities.

Merchandise

If you have a dedicated audience, consider selling your own merchandise — think t-shirts, stickers, coffee mugs and laptop cases — via a third-party site such as TeePublic or Spreadshop. Just create a storefront, stock it with items — bearing your own design or curated from other sources — and promote it on your Twitch channel.

 

4. Audio Publishing & Podcast Platforms

Anchor is

5. Course & Webinar Creation Platforms

Gumroad is

6.Online Community Engagement Platforms

PeerBoard is

7. Project-Based Funding Platforms

KickStarter is

8. Tips, Patronage, and Fan-Based Funding Platforms

Patreon is

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Substack Newsletter Review and Platform Tips (1 Year In)

Substack Newsletter Review and Platform Tips (1 Year In)

Substack Newsletter Review and Platform Tips (1 Year In)

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Written by Casey Botticello

December 28, 2020

Substack makes it simple for a writer to start an email newsletter that makes money from subscriptions. Substack provides web and newsletter publishing tools that are purpose-built for paid subscriptions.

In many ways, Substack has emerged as a major player in the digital publishing space, not through creating or inventing revolutionary ideas, but by simplifying existing concepts, and making them accessible to the average writer (and even users who would have never have identified as “writers” but want to monetize their ideas, opinions, and insights.

Newsletters have a long and rich history. Even subscription newsletters (where readers pay for access to someone’s newsletter) existed long before Substack. Ben Thompson’s, Stratechery, being one of the best examples.

But this previous generation of newsletters were created almost exclusively by:

  • Tech savvy entrepreneurs who could easily build their own tech infrastructure;
  • Subject matter experts, with traditional credentials;
  • Writers who had already built up an established audience through traditional publishing channels.

Substack was unique in that it significantly lowered the barrier of entry into subscription digital publishing. Substack offered a content management system (CMS) built for publishing email newsletters, integrated payments through Stripe, and a website that can host free and subscriber-only content. None of these aspects were unique, but the integration of these three in a WYSIWYG platform was quite a unique offering.

As someone who writes about digital publishing, I was intrigued by Substack as both a game-changing platform (which I needed to investigate for my readers, many of which I anticipated would be eager to try out the platform) and as a new mechanism for monetizing my own content.

You can read a higher level review of Substack as a digital publishing platform, here. Below is an account of my personal experience using Substack, data from my newsletter, and tips for fellow Substack writers.

Creating Blogging Guide (My Substack Newsletter)

On January 1, 2020, as part of my New Year’s goal setting, I revisited a number of entrepreneurial ideas I had not pursued the previous year. I decided to create a subscription newsletter centered around digital publishing.

So I took a second look at Substack. Substack allows users to create a subscription based newsletter and blog hybrid, which intrigued me. I resolved to launch a Substack newsletter in the following weeks.

Later January of 2020, I officially launched my first Substack newsletter, called Blogging Guide.

I didn’t expect it to be immediately successful, but I had developed a decent following on several digital publishing platforms (most notably, on Medium) and thought that over the course of a year I might be able to reach 20 paying subscribers.

However, even this seemed ambitious. As most internet entrepreneurs can attest, getting strangers to pay for one off products is hard. Convincing them to pay for a subscription information product? That is very difficult.

So Blogging Guide was initially launched as a free newsletter. There was not even an option for subscribers to pay (monetization was off).

I had received a lot of positive comments and feedback during the 100% free sign up only period.

I enabled paid subscriptions for my Newsletter on February 3, 2020. At this point, my audience was still mostly those trying to master writing on Medium, so the paid newsletter launched under the name Medium Blogging Guide.

I set the price as low as Substack would let me ($5 per month or $30 per year) and on top of that, I offered a 50% discount to initial subscribers (so it actually cost $2.50 per month or $15 per year).

Even though this is a very low price point, I was worried few people (if any) would subscribe given that most writers already pay $5 per month or $50 per year for reading articles on Medium.

I thought that I would give it three months or so, and see if I could even get a single subscriber.

On February 7, 2020 (four days after enabling monetization), I received my first paid subscriber! I was stunned to receive the email notification:

I had only published one paid-subscriber-only post a few days earlier, and figured it would require at least a month of publishing/building a large enough back catalogue to get a reader to even consider subscribing.

This “Zero to One” moment was a real game changer. The newsletter concept worked, someone found value in my writing, and I could charge for content that was higher quality and more in depth.

Though still cautiously optimistic, I decided to dedicate more time to developing my Substack newsletter.

Substack Newsletter Data Analytics / Results

Over the next few months, subscribers continued to validate the concept. Blogging Guide reached 100 paid subscribers on April 20, 2020.

This was an amazing moment! I considered this the major milestone which validated the concept of my newsletter.

In the context of the “1000 True Fan Theory” I was now 10% of the way to reaching a sustainable passion economy based business.

For those not familiar, the 1000 True Fan Theory:

More than a decade ago, Wired editor Kevin Kelly wrote an essay called “1,000 True Fans,” predicting that the internet would allow large swaths of people to make a living off their creations, whether an artist, musician, author, or entrepreneur. Rather than pursuing widespread celebrity, he argued, creators only needed to engage a modest base of “true fans”—those who will “buy anything you produce”—to the tune of $100 per fan, per year (for a total annual income of $100,000). By embracing online networks, he believed creators could bypass traditional gatekeepers and middlemen, get paid directly by a smaller base of fans, and live comfortably off the spoils.

In December 2020, less than a year after I started my newsletter, I hit another big milestone, reaching 250 paid subscribers to Blogging Guide!

While I am a very goal oriented person, I usually don’t focus on short term goals. I try to measure (and predict) success in intervals of at least a year.

So as I approach the end of the first year of running a paid Substack newsletter, I thought I would provide some of my data, observations, and tips to help other writers.

I’ve written a few articles covering Substack writing tips, Substack earning potential, Substack formatting, and platform comparisons of Substack to rival platforms. However, this post is more detailed, and likely the most useful since it contains a better sample of data.

Having a longer-term outlook is useful for a number of reasons, but most importantly to me:

Evaluating success using a longer period of time (at least a year) allows me to stop worrying about misleading short term trends. These short term trends are often more a result of a lack of data, as opposed to an actual shift that I need to react to.

A good example of this (which many writers/indie creators can probably relate to) is obsessively checking your stats for your blog, articles, newsletter, or product sales. 

While there is nothing inherently wrong with checking your stats often, there is a real risk of drawing flawed conclusions based on a limited set of data.

Take a look at the two charts below:

These two charts report the Gross Annualized Recurring Revenue from my Substack newsletter and writer community, Blogging Guide.

Both of these charts show some upward growth, but it would appear any growth that it is occurring, is quite gradual (with a number of drops and financial setbacks along the way).

This is especially apparent for the month of September, which, at the time, seemed dissapointing:

While I was tempted to make changes, I stuck with my long term content calendar, and I waited a few more months, to allow myself the time to properly contextualize the data.

However, even when viewing the gross annualized revenue all-time chart (long-term perspective), this period of time does not really explain much, when viewed out of context (although the trend looks somewhat better).

Take a look at the all-time graph (just short of one year’s progress):

When you “zoom out” and examine the broader trend, it becomes clear that:

  • The yellow highlighted period of time (seen in the previous graphs) was not actually that unique in the newsletter’s overall growth trend. It was also not a period of “failure.” Rather it was a fairly arbitrary fluctuation caused by a lack of data.
  • Any decisions made during this period (to change price, increase content production, etc.) would have likely been predicated on a skewed data sample.
  • Substack’s graph depicting gross annualized revenue can easily be influenced by a small group of users, who are monthly subscribers, with a relatively high churn rate. This is true for my newsletter too, even though 90%+ of my paid subscribers at any given time are annual subscribers. This volatility would be even more exaggerated in a newsletter with fewer annual subscribers.

Lessons Learned in the First Year of Publishing My Paid Substack Newsletter

1. Choose Your Newsletter Name Carefully

Picking a good name is essential to creating a successful Substack newsletter. Ideally, your Substack publication will meets most of the following tips:

  • Keep the name short — Generally, the shorter the name, the better. It is also ideal to keep your publication name between 1–3 words.
  • Keep the name simple — I would suggest keeping the newsletter name simple.
  • Try to pick a name with an available domain name — This suggestion is optional. But if you want to have the potential to build a brand beyond your Substack newsletter.

As you will notice from the Substack leaderboard, most of the top publications follow these basic rules.

2. Substack Has Very High Domain Authority & Indexes Well

For me personally, choosing the name “Blogging Guide” made sense as it was concise, easy to spell, and I had already started building a brand around that keyword search phrase. This leads me to the next lesson that I learned from Substack, which is that Substack has high Domain Authority (DA), and writers need to view each newsletter as both a new issue and a static blog post.

One of the most overlooked aspects of Substack is the fact that your newsletter doubles as a static blog post.

Why does this matter?

Normally, the ROI on any individual newsletter issue is relatively low. However, when each issue doubles as a blog post with high domain authority, this significantly increases the value of an individual post. Because far more people will end up seeing it through search engine traffic, there is an additional incentive to create high quality content (as opposed to churning out mediocre content, while trying to promote a product or service.

Your newsletter is the product or service being sold, so publishing each new issue helps you (1) continue to supply existing subscribers with new content (2) attract new subscribers by creating content that doubles as strong lead generation material.

3. Focus on Selling Annual Subscriptions

Substack currently allows for two main types of paid subscriptions: monthly or annual.

Annual subscriptions are typically offered at a 10%-20% discount off the equivalent monthly pricing.

The more established your newsletter, the less this discount matters. Conversely, if you have a relatively new newsletter, I would highly suggest offering, at least initially, a 20%+ discount on annual subscriptions, for the following reasons:

  • Annual subscriptions allow for better revenue projections. If you have a lot of monthly subscribers, revenue will inevitably fluctuate since monthly subscribers have a higher churn rate. Additionally, as you change your newsletter subscription price over time, or offer promotional deals, these variations will be reflected more in monthly subscriptions than in annual subscriptions.
  • Annual subscriptions help weed out “problematic subscribers.” Based on my experience, most of the customer service issues come from a small group of monthly subscribers.
  • It is far easier to meet (and exceed) expectations of annual subscribers. Content production varies month to month. So if you have an annual subscription, you will see a better sample of the content that you can come to expect. Monthly subscribers might sign up in a month where you happen to produce less content. This may lead to them not upgrading to an annual membership or cancelling their monthly membership.
  • Annual subscriptions decrease the risk of payment failure. A small amount of subscriptions through Substack will fail because of outdated payment information. For monthly subscriptions, there is a greater risk of payment failure, since their are 12 cycles in a year, and only 1 cycle for the annual subscription.

4. Develop a “Content Allocation” Strategy

Substack allows writers the ability to choose, each time they publish a post, if the post is free for everyone or only for paying subscribers. 

This leads to a question that I get asked by many Substack writers:

How should I allocate my content between free posts and paid subscriber-only posts?

There are several strategies that I have seen popular Substack newsletter writer utilize:

  • Post 3-5 free posts per week, and 1-2 premium or locked posts per week. This strategy allows writers to heavily market their work through publicly available posts and newsletter issues. Potential subscribers can get a taste of your content, and if they like it, may upgrade to paid subscribers, in order to access additional or premium content.
  • Post 1-2 free posts per week, and 3-5 premium or locked posts per week. This strategy is the exact opposite of the one mentioned above. Writers are still offering a small amount of content for free (typically, to drive traffic and potential paying subscribers), but they are placing the majority of their content behind a paywall.
  • Post content for free for an extended period. By forgoing monetization for an initial extended period of time, writers can build up an email list much faster. This is the strategy that I recommend to most Substack writers, although it does require a fairly significant investment of time, and it takes much longer to gauge the interest of your audience in actually paying for your content.
  • Immediately enable newsletter monetization, and build an audience at a slower pace, but start generating revenue sooner. This strategy has the advantage of allowing you to filter readers quickly. Some readers may enjoy your content, but will never pay for it. Others will pay for content because they understand the value proposition of your newsletter. You can also assess the potential of your newsletter, at an accelerated rate. However, this strategy can be risky, since you may miss out on subscribers who may have upgraded had they seen your content (not placed behind a paywall).

 

5. Create an Editorial Calendar

Similar to blogging, running a successful Substack newsletter requires planning and strategy. One of the best ways to achieve this is through the creation of an editorial calendar for your newsletter publishing schedule.

6. Mobile Optimization

Substack automatically does a great job formatting your newsletter content so that it can be read on mobile devices. This is especially critical since Substack’s core offering, is the ability to reach the inbox of your subscribers.

And more than 50% of all email is opened on mobile devices. So it is at least as important as optimizing your content for traditional desktop views.

So how can you optimize your Substack newsletter for mobile devices?

  • Limit the use of large image files or GIFs. These will both increase the time it takes to load and email and will increase the odds that your email renders incorrectly.
  • Preview your articles on a mobile device before sending out a newsletter. Occasionally, headings, images, and special font formatting will render incorrectly. This is especially true if you are writing your Substack newsletters in a program (i.e. Word, Notepad, etc.) other than Substack’s editor. Copying and pasting content can lead to formatting errors which may not show up on a desktop preview.
  • Enable colored links. If you go into your Substack newsletter formatting settings, there is a box that you can check labeled “enable colored links.” Enabling this function will allow you to change the color of hyperlinked text. When viewing colored links on desktop, they may appear excessive, depending upon how much you use them. But they really display well on mobile devices and encourage readers to click them.

7. Create More Than “Just Newsletter”

Substack does not facilitate much more than a subscription newsletter and a blog. But that doesn’t mean that you need to limit your subscriber benefits to just a newsletter.

I often refer to Blogging Guide as a writer community instead of just a newsletter. Not only does this sound better, but it reflects the broader efforts I’ve made to build a community around my newsletters central topic.

I’ve done this by creating private chat groups, offering free digital downloads, and a podcast. All of these related products are offered to paying subscribers.

Every newsletter is unique, so there is no single answer to the question of how to build a community. But below are a few ideas which may work:

  • Private Chat Communities. These can be hosted on platforms such as Slack, Facebook, Discord, and Reddit.
  • Digital Downloads. Types of digital downloads you can offer your subscribers includes digital templates, eBooks, courses, and custom software/tools.
  • Public Recognition. Forms of public recognition include shoutouts on social media, cross promotion of content, or offering jobs/opportunities to your paid subscribers first, and referencing this in future newsletter updates.

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What is Digital Publishing?

What is Digital Publishing?

What is Digital Publishing?

Written by Casey Botticello

October 2, 2020

Digital publishing includes the digital publication of e-books, digital magazines, and the development of digital libraries and catalogues. It also includes an editorial aspect, that consists of editing books, journals or magazines that are mostly destined to be read on a screen (computer, e-reader, tablet, smartphone).

Amazon.com’s E-reader, Kindle, and their self- publishing platform, Kindle Direct Publishing, are part of digital publishing. People create games and apps and have them published in the Google Play Store. Musicians record their music into MP3 files and upload them to iTunes which will digitally publish their music and make it available to iPods, iPhones, and other players. When you listen to Pandora, Spotify, or any other online music service, you take advantage of their distribution network which is a form of digital publishing. When you look at digital images created in Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop, you see artwork that has been digitally published.

Blog platforms like WordPress or social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram make available to everyone the necessary tools for digital publishing. Each time someone posts a picture to Instagram or Snapchat, publish a tweet or share your thoughts on Medium, they are engaging in an act of digital publishing. And they are doing it in large numbers: each day, 95 million pictures and videos are shared in Instagram, and 500 million tweets are sent.

The medium of digital publishing is different than conventional forms of publishing, but that isn’t where the differences end. In digital publishing ebooks, you aren’t restricted by the length of the work as you would in conventional publishing. Conventional novels can be anywhere from 50,000 words to more than 300,000. Ebooks, however, can be any length the author feels is appropriate. 

In newspapers and magazines, the concern used to be about how many inches the article can be in order to fit in advertisers. Digital publishing is the new freedom has encouraged experimentation with new story formats.

They also don’t have the constraint of having to fill a determinate number of pages. From a digital newspaper site, you can access all the articles ever published on their print edition. The same can be said for music and videos released on the Internet.

At the same time, publication time has been slashed to almost nothing. Publishers no longer have to wait for production lag times. Because of this, digital media can be published quickly, usually with no more delay than one or two days once the production editing is completed.

In this way, digital publishing continues to expand and grow. 25% of all book sales in 2018 were for ebooks, up from 12% in 2013. Streaming music represents 75% of the music industry revenue. Three-quarters of subscribers to newspapers like the Financial Times and the New York Times are paying for digital-only subscriptions, and even local newspapers like the Boston Globe have more digital than print subscribers.

The growing market for digital publishing is showing no signs of slowing down. New writers are discovering an organic and accessible publishing power with a near unlimited audience. Amazon, e-books and applications like Create Space have opened up fresh avenues for authors to gain recognition for their work.

Digital technological innovations and changes have created favorable circumstances for online publication improvement, such as the possibility of diversifying content streams and revenue sources.

The industry is now entering Self-Publishing 3.0. This phase will be direct sales from author to reader by way of subscription models, crowdsourced funding, and other income streams.”

Digital technologies gave self-publishers opportunities to build their businesses and careers on an unprecedented scale. This path is the best choice for aspiring authors, writers and storytellers – their options to independently create and distribute the publications are virtually limitless, no matter what they want to publish. It is possible because technology companies which build digital publishing platforms continue to improve their online newsstands features and aim to extend beyond publishing services by offering e.g. SEO audit.

Familiar with the book “50 Shades of Grey”? The author, E.L. James self-published the story first on fanfiction sites and then on her website before switching to a self-published ebook and print-on-demand physical edition.

But saying that self-publishing will be a trend is only half of the truth – along with this, the subscription model of selling books will enjoy a significant growth in 2020.

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