Q&A: Mobile-first strategies for local publishers

Our Q&A today is with Liam Handford, Digital Marketing Specialist at Canvasflow, a cloud based authoring tool for publishers.



Canvasflow was born in 2016 when co-founders Gareth Jones and Patrick Cobbett became aware of the limitations that existed for publishers with a desire to take a mobile first approach to publishing.  While PDF still has a place, the continued growth of mobile usage demanded a better solution to create rich, mobile-friendly content.

From a lot of research we found that a number of robust solutions existed for the distribution of digital content, however little existed to facilitate publishers in the creation of good looking, cost effective responsive content.

Having built, and implemented numerous back-end solutions to transform and publish digital content for many companies, it became clear that a solution was needed to provide publishers with powerful but simple to use platform to give them the toolset and confidence to begin the move to a mobile-first workflow.



Many publishers either publish content that simply isn’t responsive or optimised for mobile consumption, or they have must invest significant resources and have convoluted workflows to create content that is.

We don’t believe creating mobile-friendly content should be difficult, time consuming, or ultimately expensive. We also see how inflexible much of the content is that publishers have because it’s created for one specific purpose, in one format.

Canvasflow was created to provide a platform that makes creating responsive content simple and intuitive, regardless of the company’s size, technical resources or the audience a publisher is targetting. We do this while providing a simple workflow and design-driven articles.

Once content has been created, it can be pushed – on demand – to one or more major app platforms, social channels, CMS or even output as a PDF if required.  It’s all about freeing up resources for publishers to focus on their audience.


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There are three major aspects to Canvasflow: Creation, Management, and Publishing.

Content creation is one of the platforms key value points.  Canvasflow provides a super simple drag and drop content building UI with all the functionality publishers require to create and design content that’ll look great across all devices.  This enables articles to be constructed in very little time and from any location.  With practically zero learning curve, its perfect for helping publishers move to a new workflow, and because it’s designed for publishers, they don’t require a developer to create new content or make design changes.

For larger publishers, or when content already exists, we also provide an API which offers the ability to automate production.  One example of this is our recently released WordPress plugin which enables publishers with content in WordPress to intelligently push it into Canvasflow.  This automatically generates clean, responsive articles which are available to be redesigned, enriched or simply republished to new channels.

Content management comes in the form of providing a workflow suited to the publisher.  With support for multiple publications and different publishing schedules and smart syncing with publishing platforms, content is managed in a single location regardless of its ultimate  destination.

Finally publishing. Because Canvasflow is already integrated, and offers instant setup with many of the leading app and social distribution platforms, publishers have complete choice over a solution that meets their requirements.

With support for multi-channel publishing you get the benefit of write once, publish many – to an App, Apple News channel and Blog. Because Canvasflow automatically handles the requirements of any connected channel, it ensures that only compatible content and appropriate metadata is published leaving the editor to focus only the content.



The biggest impact mobile technology has had on local journalism isn’t just the demand from readers to access content on the go or across multiple devices with a familiar reading experience, but the speed at which publishers are able to push content.

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Thanks to mobile-first solutions like Canvasflow, local publishers are able to inform their readers much faster and more continuously, updating as stories progress. This turns the local publishing realm into more of a conversation with their audience, and with the use of analytics can help drive their editorial strategy.

On the flipside, there’s been a shift from long-form text to much more digestible content – which has increased the amount of lower quality content in an effort to ‘get it out the door’ first to capitalise on the headline and hook readers in. The content itself has taken a backseat to the development required to get it ready for an app, blog and print.



Regular, consistently great content delivered in formats that make the most sense. Look at how podcasts have made a resurgence, or even how large publishers have been making the most out of video – they recognise that mixed formats beyond text allow them to capture the attention of a bigger audience, even if the persona of the audience itself stays the same. A 10 minute podcast to recap on the latest Brexit news is far more digestible than a 3000 word article, but for little cost, it’s also possible to provide a brief overview via youtube video, and a short-form version on Apple News.

Communicating with readers in multiple different ways is what mobile-first really boils down to, adapting content not just to screen size, but to use case.



 Understanding where new audiences can exist and establishing a presence on those channels, with consistent, tailored content is something all publishers should be doing. A publisher that’s purely digital could be missing out on a huge audience simply by not exploring alternate channels. It can be hard to get your voice heard over everyone else, but presence alone often pays off in the long-run even without pushing it too much – whether it’s through SEO, being referenced by other publications, or simply letting people stumble onto your content.

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There’s also the endless battle between paywalled and freemium content, but ultimately freemium allows first time readers to take a chance on a publisher, and that’s how loyal audiences are built. When it comes to digital there’s so much choice in almost every sector of publishing that you can’t afford to work without some good faith between publisher and reader.



 The best recipe is always going to be focusing on good content. Deliver that content consistently, let readers be able to expect particular pieces on certain days of the week or even times of the day.

Experiment with channels like Medium and Apple News, try promoting your publication through Facebook Advertising, they all have the potential to be low cost and high reward. Use technology to your advantage whether it’s analytics to help you measure which channels are worth investing in, or content authoring and management solutions that streamline your workflow. The key is ensuring you spend more time creating valuable content and less time trying to force that content through pipelines.

Finally, be the master of your own domain. It’s very easy to start broadening your target audience, but when that happens the very reason your current readers trust you is often diluted. Niche, targeted publications with loyal readers will add more value and be more sustainable than a publication adding little value to as many eyeballs as possible.

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