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Moving from Print to Web in Stages

by Chris Smith

There are many good reasons for moving from producing printed publications such as leaflets, brochures or catalogues to putting all information onto a website - better for the environment, wider reaching, faster and cheaper. Even though we know this taking the plunge and stopping print media suddenly is scary.

It doesn't have to be so sudden and drastic. It is possible to use a more gentle phased approach.

Stage 1 - Getting the web right

If this is going to work the website has to have the most up to date information, and if not exactly consitent with printed information, the web needs to be the most accurate source of information.

Stage 2 - Produce a Digital Edition

When your publication is complete create what is called a digital edition or an electronic version of it which can be downloaded or emailed to people. The most common format for this is PDF but you can use anything which can be easily distributed electronically.

Whilst a PDF download might not have quite the same feel as holding a high quality brochure in your hands there are advantages. Firstly, the customer gets it right away, whilst they're still interested. By the time a brochure arrives in the post the next day they may have gone off the idea or found a competitor's information online. The download also means that they can share it with friends or colleagues easily and at zero cost.

Rather than launching both print and electronic media simultaneously it might be better to release the electronic version in advance. By doing this anyone waiting for the publication will have their information earlier and there's a good chance they may not feel the need for a print version.

When it comes to the next edition of the publication it is worth considering the electronic means of distribution when it is designed. For example, if printed by the user, does it look good in black and white, does it fit onto A4?

Stage 3 - Monitor publication requests

Once you have both hard copy and electronic versions out there it's essential to monitor how many people are accessing the 2 types of media. You need to keep a note of how many hard copies are requested and compare this against numbers of downloads. Over time you should notice a natural increase in the downloads and this will, in turn, create a drop in the requests for print.

Stage 4 - Use incentives

When trying to get numbers using the electronic media up and print down you can give people a nudge in the right direction by offering reduced prices online. Even those who don't use the internet might show an interest if they hear they can get something 10% cheaper.

Stage 5 - Reduce print runs

Rather than stop the publication altogether it may be preferable to reduce quantities slowly over time based on the demand you have been monitoring until you reach the point where the publication no longer offers a return on your investment.