What Is Digital Publishing?

    Fact checked by Vahe Arabian
    Vahe Arabian

    Founder and Editor in Chief of State of Digital Publishing. My vision is to provide digital publishing and media professionals a platform to collaborate and promote their efforts, my passion is to uncover talent and… Read more

    Edited by Vahe Arabian
    Vahe Arabian

    Founder and Editor in Chief of State of Digital Publishing. My vision is to provide digital publishing and media professionals a platform to collaborate and promote their efforts, my passion is to uncover talent and…Read more

    digital publishing

    I'm a content strategist based in Barcelona, Spain. I work with professionals and companies to help them manage content as a strategic resource with two...Read more

    When you think of digital publishing, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a blog or eBook. But you’d be surprised at all the forms digital media and digital publishing can take. 

    Digital publishing started in 1971 when Project Gutenberg was launched with the digitalisation of the US Declaration of Independence. Since then, it has grown substantially and evolved into a force that has taken on conventional publishing, encompassing books, music, video, audio, news, video games, mobile apps and more.

    According to Statista, 4.66 billion people were active users of the Internet as of October 2020, encompassing 59% of the global population. Furthermore, digital technological innovations and changes have created favorable circumstances for online publication improvement, including the possibility of diversifying content streams and revenue sources.

    Stay up to date on the latest news, trends, and best practices in digital publishing.

    (Image Source: Statista)

    Today, the effortlessness of creating digital online content allows anyone, with the right editorial strategy, to publish online content and gain massive readership. In short, as digital offerings overtake newspapers, it’s easy to see why digital publishing is the future of media.

    So, what is digital publishing? What are the advantages of digital publishing?

    Let’s dive in.

    Digital and media publishing definitions

    “Digital” refers to any online media available on electronic devices. It could mean anything from a website to the latest game you played on your smartphone to the response to a question you just asked a digital assistant like Siri. All of these are possible because of digital technology. 

    “Media”, on the other hand, is used to communicate. Marketers have used traditional media such as print, radio, TV, yellow pages, and even outdoor ads to reach consumer markets for the last 50 to 100 years. Similarly, digital media is media that uses digital devices to convey information. This means that any information published on the web or other digital devices is considered digital media.

    So, what is digital publishing?

    Digital publishing (often referred to as online publishing or e-publishing), is the publication on the web or on electronic carriers of magazines, e-books, white papers, reports, or any form of content that is typically long-form. In short, it is the use of online technology to digitize print material and share it digitally.

    What is a digital publisher?

    Since digital publishing is the act of providing digital media to the public, a digital publisher is the publishing company or entity that broadcasts media to the public via specified digital channels. 

    Digital publishers create content and distribute it online to:

    • Deliver media to the public through digital devices
    • Reach a wider audience (including mobile and global audiences)
    • Save money
    • Analyze website visitors and optimize content accordingly
    • Collect market research data

    Print media vs digital media

    Print media is becoming extinct. In the past decade, print publications have been shedding pages as print advertising revenue decreases and news delivery becomes increasingly digitized

    As new generations become accustomed to digital technology, electronic and web publishing is rapidly replacing traditional print media, and with good reason. Traditional newspapers and print publishers do not offer the immediacy newer generations have come to expect. Digital news sources provide information more quickly, enabling people to read breaking news as it happens.

    For publishers accustomed to print media, the decline of traditional publishing – and subsequent rise of digital media – is a big adjustment. Nonetheless, there are many advantages of digital publishing.

    Advantages of digital publishing 

    1. Visual content domination

    Visual stimulation is on the rise. In 2020, 81% of businesses predicted that 46% of their business would rely on visual content marketing. Moreover, according to TechCrunch, visual content creation and consumption is up 842% since early 2016. 

    Visual content encourages readers to spend more time with a website or media channel. It’s also a huge factor in engaging audiences in an effort to drive emotions and motivate them to action.

    Digital publishing offers its audience the joy of consuming content with more added visuals than ever before. Audiences now readily expect to see videos, infographics, GIFs and links to other media in the content they consume. Digital publishing platforms also offer publishers the ability to integrate PDFs and WhitePapers with YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, and SlideShare.

    2. Huge cost savings

    By reducing or eliminating print media, publishers can reduce publication costs drastically. 

    3. Interactive advertising

    Publishers are pretty limited when it comes to advertisements with print media. But, with a digital publishing platform, advertisements become interactive. Publishers can insert an ad multiple times, and consumers have the option to click on compelling CTAs (calls-to-action) that take them to the advertiser’s website.

    4. Social media exposure

    Social media boosts digital publishing platforms. Publishers can increase their visibility by sharing links from their website or uploading their media to social media platforms. Furthermore, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest allow readers to share content, which can lead to more views, organic traffic, and new subscribers.

    5. Revenue potential

    Perhaps the greatest advantage of digital publishing is its accessibility to online revenue opportunities. Last year, the digital ad industry surpassed traditional media, seizing more than half of all dollars spent by advertisers.

    Because of the mainstream adoption of digital media and smartphone technology, digital ad budgets are only continuing to grow. Brands need a massive amount of content to cover their digital omnichannel approach, leaving digital publishers a huge opportunity to leverage their platforms for brand promotion and general content and programmatic demand.

    Digital publishing examples

    Some of the most common examples of digital publishing include:

    • Digital magazines.
    • Online newsletters.
    • Digital catalogs.
    • Digital brochures.
    • Presentations.
    • Online newspapers.
    • Blogs.
    • eBooks

    Blog platforms like WordPress and social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram make available the necessary tools for digital publishing. Each time someone posts a picture to Instagram or Snapchat, publishes a tweet or shares their 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 on Instagram, and 500 million tweets are sent.

    Amazon’s eReader, Kindle, and their self-publishing platform, Kindle Direct Publishing, are also examples of digital publishing. Other examples include games and apps that have been published on a platform such as Google Play, as well as MP3 files published on iTunes. When you listen to Pandora, Spotify, or any other online music service, you are taking advantage of their distribution network, which is also a form of digital publishing. 

    Similarly, when you look at digital images created in Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop, you see artwork that has been digitally published.

    Digital publication business models

    Each digital publishing company must define its core competencies and its business model. To do that, aspiring publishers should consider the following:

    • Who is our target audience?
    • How relevant and unique is the content we publish?
    • What does our content development strategy look like?
    • How can we diversify our income streams?
    • How much is a brand willing to pay to collaborate with us?

    A sustainable media publishing business model is one that enables the publisher to produce high-quality, relevant content while increasing its number of advertisers and readers.

    The following business models are currently the most-used by media publishing companies:

    1. Paid content, subscriptions, and memberships

    The subscription or membership model is focused on users that value high-quality, exclusive content and are willing to pay a recurring membership subscription to get it.

    2. Retailing and eCommerce

    Retailing and eCommerce models are aimed at consumers interested in purchasing specific products and consuming product-related content.

    3. Branded content and programmatic advertising

    This business model is aimed at programmatic advertisers that need to distribute branded messaging to their target audiences. 

    The future of digital publishing and media

    Digital publishing and media are rapidly overtaking print. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the rise of digital media, with publishers rushing to increase distribution and diversify their revenue models online.

    The online publication industry offers publishers a number of benefits. In addition to the above-mentioned advantages, with eBooks for example, publishers aren’t restricted by the length of the work as they are in traditional publishing. Conventional novels can be anywhere from 50,000 words to more than 300,000 words but seldom go above or below those numbers because of the cost of printing. eBooks, however, can be any length the author feels is appropriate. This opens a lot of possibilities for authors and publishers. 

    With print newspapers and magazines, publishers have to consider how to best fit advertisements into the published content. On the other hand, with blogs and digital newspapers, publishers are not constrained by the overall length of the medium. This new freedom has encouraged experimentation with new story formats.

    Digital media publishers also don’t have the constraint of having to fill a determinate number of pages. On 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.

    To add on, publication time has been slashed to virtually nothing. Publishers no longer have to wait for production lag times. Because of this, digital media can be published quickly, usually within one to two days of having completed the necessary production editing and optimization.

    The final word on digital publishing

    Digital publishing continues to expand and grow. In 2018, 25% of all book sales were attributed to 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

    Besides the growth of digital subscription, audio (such as podcasts and voice search) and the use of artificial intelligence in publishing (like voice assistants or language processing for categorizing content automatically) are two of the biggest trends in digital publishing now.



    Learn proven strategies to maximize traffic to your digital publication by leveraging tried and tested technical and content SEO strategies.


    Related posts

    Receive timely analysis of news and developments in the digital publishing space directly in your mailbox.

    online course

    Publisher SEO

    Learn a technical and content SEO strategy that helps digital publishers increase their organic traffic by 100-500%.

    online course

    Publisher SEO

    Learn a technical and content SEO strategy that helps digital publishers increase their organic traffic by 100-500%.