Crash Course for Multichannel Publishing

Publishing used to be simple. Organizations had their information printed in a book, manual, journal, or magazine and it was distributed to their target audience. But technology has added many other options to the publishing world, giving organizations more choices for disseminating their information. Many have chosen to pursue multichannel publishing. But what exactly is that? And who should consider multichannel publishing?

Information is all the pieces used to produce a publication. For printed books and magazines, information is text and graphics. For electronic publications such as Web sites or mobile devices, information includes not only text and graphics, but may also include sound and video clips.

Media is any channel for publishing information. Media includes printed products (books, journals, magazines, manuals), electronic products (DVDs, smart phones, mobile devices), Web sites, and accessible publications for visually impaired persons (Braille, voice translation devices).

Multichannel publishing means publishing the same information to several different media formats. For example, an organization may publish medical information as a printed book for doctors’ offices, but also publish it for mobile devices for doctors and nurses to access when they are seeing patients in examination rooms. Schoolbook publishers may publish their textbook in print form for classrooms and also publish an electronic accessible version of that same text on a DVD for visually-impaired students.

Let’s compare multichannel publishing to something that everyone can relate to: ice cream! Suppose Content Man has chocolate ice cream as his information. He can serve that information in different varieties: in a dish, in a cone, or as a milkshake. The information – chocolate ice cream – stays the same, but it is served to the consumer in different ways.

Similarly, information such as a medical reference book can be delivered as a printed book and as an electronic file on a DVD. Simultaneously, the same information can also be published to a Web page and a mobile device. The reference book’s information doesn’t change; only the form in which it is delivered to the intended “consumer” changes. The information is published in more than one media channel, allowing the information to reach a wider audience through these different channels.

All organizations that publish educational or instructional information, training manuals, research results, parts manuals, testing materials, reference materials, and more should consider multichannel publishing. Multichannel publishing expands markets by delivering information in the most convenient ways so the intended audience can access the information in a timely manner.

Using the ice cream example, Content Man sells more chocolate ice cream by offering it in different forms than he did when he only sold it in cones. Why? Because some people think cones are too messy and prefer the convenience of chocolate ice cream in a dish. Others prefer to take a gallon of chocolate ice cream home and have it accessible to eat when they watch TV late at night. In the same way, people will access information more often if it is delivered in ways that are convenient and accessible to them when they want it.

Many organizations find that publishing their information to more than one media channel allows them to reach a broader audience. They can reach business people who frequently travel with mobile publications and visually impaired people with Braille or voice-translated electronic files. Reaching more people means more awareness of their products in the marketplace which can lead to more sales.

Many people still prefer to read information in print publications, so there’s still benefit in printing information. However, printed products take the most time to produce. People can get more current information when they can access it via an electronic source such as a Web site because the time needed to produce these electronic products is far less than printed products. Also, electronic products are searchable and can contain video and sound clips that print products can’t provide. When produced on the Web, the information can be updated every day to provide the latest developments to an audience.