What are the signs of digital success for a Publishing company? One of the best manifestations of a successful digital transformation is portrayed by the famous German media publisher Ebner Publishing Group that has had remarkable success in the past few years. In order to learn more about and get an insight into the company’s digital transformation, I interviewed Dominik Grau, the Chief Innovation Officer of the group.
Ebner Verlag GmbH & Co. has a history of around 200 years and is a family-owned media group operating in 11 countries having headquarters in Ulm, Germany. The company operates in niches and is a special interest company, publishing magazines related to firefighters, fashion, music, IT, etc. The group has more than 80 magazines and 60 websites to its name. Dominik, who has more than 15 years of experience in the media industry worked as the Managing Director of Ebner’s New York office prior to joining the German office as the CIO.
What has been the major pain-point for Ebner Publishing in the Internet era?
DG: In 2011, Ebner Publishing witnessed that the print and traditional publishing businesses were going down as there was a shift of people’s interest from print to digital. The audiences were now using social media platforms, apps and other online services. People had internet where they read whatever they wanted to, and this didn’t go well for print media businesses since their audience numbers and revenues were going down.
How did you use the Internet to propel Ebner Publishing to digital success it has reached today?
DG: During that time, Ebner Publishing was profitable, so we went ahead with a massive restructuring of the group. The idea was to change the focus from product (magazine and website) to audience.
The management board came to a decision that it would conduct an extensive global market research and started contacting various special-interest publishers across Asia, Europe and America in order to analyze their business models with an aim to develop a blueprint for Ebner’s digital transformation.
I was present in America at that time and interviewed people from various publishing houses, universities, and large corporations to get to know where the market is heading and what strategy could benefit Ebner in its transformation from a print-based media house to a digital one.
Thereafter, all jobs and roles in the company were redesigned to focus on the audience; there were new roles created such as Content Marketing Editor, Content Engineers, etc. and teams were redesigned putting digital at the helm of this restructuring.
Each product that was developed, focused on a set of personae which were formed after extensive interviews that were conducted with our audiences at their homes, offices, through phone, etc. This was to obtain a better understanding of their preferences and their behavior on the internet. Hence, we structured the operations from audience to content to revenues.
Tell us about your 7 key-steps to internet success for publishers
One of Ebner’s transformation strategies is the “7-Step Evergreen Content Strategy” for websites. Evergreen content is content that remains valid for a significant period of time, sometimes even 5 or 6 years. Let’s dissect this strategy in some depth:
1. Creating Personae
This is done through audience interviews to comprehend the market, to understand what kind of content they use and on which device, when and what for. We ask our readers about the topics they like; if they need service content or a report, or if they prefer audio or video content. It’s really important to know such information as it helps to guide us about how the audiences are actually using the content.
We delve into a keyword search after our interviews. If, for example, one of the fashion magazines asks fashion executives in Paris about “content marketing for fashion industry in Paris”, then, we get 3 keywords: “content marketing”, “fashion” and “Paris”.
2. Measuring the Keywords
With the keywords that we have, we go on to measure and analyze the kind of products that are related with them on google and how many people want them. We also make use of Amazon and other e-commerce websites to have a look at the products in demand and we take into consideration any similar content present on social media, hashtags that should be produced, etc. At the end, we try to quantify the results.
3. Creating an yearly schedule
Now when we know that certain people are looking at these keywords, we plan about the content that is to be created for the next 12 months.
4. Updating the content
We update the content every 90 days after publishing. If there’s a need, new photos, videos or maybe a list is added to keep the content “fresh”, so that users keep vising the website.
5. Sharing the content
Every 45 days, we share the link to this evergreen content on the different social media platforms that are relevant to it and make a mention of it at any of our event speeches, our newsletters or wherever we see that there is an interest for this topic.
6. Breaking the evergreen content into tiny pieces
We divide the content in many smaller parts, taking photos, numbers, quotes and other content from them and sharing them on external platforms to create awareness about the full evergreen content and allow people to discover the content Ebner has.
7. Converting the evergreen content readers into newsletter readers
On all of its websites, Ebner publishes a free daily, weekly and monthly newsletter and wants its evergreen content readers to be subscribers to the newsletters. This is because Ebner has observed that after 1 year, 10% of the people who subscribe to the newsletters end up buying a product, which could be some subscription, event ticket, webinar, paid download etc.