Monday, December 19, 2011

If You Understand The Digital Distribution Platform, Can You Build Better Content?

Certainly the future of print lies in digital distribution. The rise in penetration of tablets and e-readers with digital content is that proverbial chicken and egg scenario where one continues to drive the other, perpetually linked. And this latest piece of news demonstrates the commitment that how well this digital content gets purposed in a digital form is just as crucial.

"Rodale is expected to announce that it has hired Anthony Astarita as senior vice president and general manager for digital and brand development. Before joining Rodale, Mr. Astarita served as Barnes & Noble’s vice president and general manager for e-commerce and digital products." It indicates to me that Rodale understands that delivering content to a digital platform is not enough. Maximizing the value of the new space requires understanding its strengths and weaknesses more completely. Bringing someone from the platform side can help Rodale reshape and deliver the content in a way that enhances the value of the content and fulfills the expectations of the viewing receiving it in this different form.

And I don't see this hiring as a means for Rodale to get into the hardware space. It is not their business nor should it be. Theirs is to drive content across multiple platforms and hopefully to be agnostic about which one the consumer might ultimately choose to view its content on. With Apple, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble vigorously competing along with other CE manufacturers, it is not in Rodale or other publishers' best interest to join this side of the fight.

The Nook and other tablets are not simple replacements for a magazine or newspaper. These devices bring more capabilities and more opportunities and this hiring should help Rodale and others to make its content more compelling, more interesting, and more necessary. Knowing the hardware side means faster loading, streaming, viewing options, interactivity, and other technological feats to improve the experience. And that can drive more subscriptions and more ad revenue.