Digital Innovation Digital Publishing
4 mins read

“Publishing will go on”: Weekly Pandemic Roundtable Report, Digital Content, and a Plea for Click to Curb

This week’s Pandemic Roundtable, a weekly gathering of Joe Berger, Samir Husni, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, Bo Sacks, and me, had a special guest: Paul Morillo of Issuu, calling in to talk about how publishers could use digital to support their audience connection during a time when their print connection might be compromised or reduced.

Paul began by asking how publications might become more visible to shoppers in the stores or online.

“We’ve created MagBox,” said Gemma. “We package four publications and deliver them together, for just over half the retail price.”

“We need to get them included on the store’s drop-down menus for online orders,” Sherin added. “I’ve been trying to move that effort along for years now, with the Old Farmer’s Almanac. It needs to be made visible there, so magazines can be packed in with the order and picked up at the curb.”

The magazine distributor ANC is working on that, Joe said. It does seem to be taking a while. The difficulty appears to be product turn, with new issues, new issue codes, new covers, coming up so often. “I would imagine ANC is working with MagNet to refresh that, but apparently there are programming issues before it can be streamlined.”

“I can understand the complexity of having fresh covers populating a supermarket web site to sell magazines,” said BoSacks. “Near to impossible, I would think. But wouldn’t a generic cover be nearly as effective? Regular buyers know what they like. We just need to put it in front of them.”

The important thing, he continued, would be to support ANC in this effort; publishers need to let the distributor know that they are prepared to do what is necessary to move this initiative forward.

The conversation turned to our special guest, Paul Morillo.

What is Issuu?

Paul: Issuu is the largest digital publishing platform, with 40 million publishers, ranging from students to hobbyists to hyper-local publications to larger publishers. Tracking by reads, we have 100 million per month. Our goal to help publishers get kick-started in digial circulation.

What current trends are you seeing?

Paul: Issuu is growing in this environment—people are reading more by 10-15%, and new publishers are entering the market at the same growth rate. The publisher mix has been changing. Hobbyists appear to be falling away, and more professional publishers are coming on. It’s a way for publishers new to the field to find a fast solution to digital; it’s also a way for established publishers to expand.

How can the platform help publishers to grow?

Paul: publishers can use Issuu to fill out their rate base, adding monthly digital readers; they can use it to introduce special content. Issuu can help introduce a magazine to people in a unique demographic; through the power of our data, we can help a publisher find its audience.

What specific problems is Issuu solving today?

Paul: There are publishers that are being forced to combine or skip issues. Some can’t get to print because their printers have shut their doors; others can’t get to market because the retailers have. Some are turning to Issuu to help them get to their audience.

Samir: I advise publishers against substituting a print issue with digital issue. The relationship between print product and reader is irreplaceable. But in terms of reaching an audience to tell them what is waiting for them in print, digital can be powerful and important.

What is Issuu’s revenue model?

Paul: Participating publishers pay an annual fee ranging from $228-$3200 per year, depending on the services they purchase. Issuu shares in revenue from digital sales, and to support publishers during the pandemic we have reduced our share. We offer promotions opportunities, and have a Google ads plan on site. Publishers can sell subscriptions, sell digital single copies, and sell advertising.

Do you help publishers digitize their product?

Paul: No, publishers come to Issuu with finished product. We explored partnerships but backed off as they were not in best interests of our publishers.

Do you have any particularly exciting digital opportunities for publishers?

Paul: As part of their relationship with us, publishers are given the opportunity to participate in Issuu Stories. With 51% of internet traffic coming from mobile devices, this gives publishers the ability to connect with their audiences in this way. It started as a way to mobile-optimize a story, and it’s taken on a life of its own. Publishers can create advertorial content and promote it on mobile. They continue to find new ways of using it.

What have you seen that makes you optimistic?

Paul: I’m seeing new publishers pop up. And I’m seeing new launches, even now, in the midst of the pandemic.

Samir: Publishing will go on.

By Linda Ruth

This commentary originally appeared on Bo Sacks daily newsletter and is re-published with kind permission. You can subscribe to Bo’s e-newsletter here.