Be it print or digital publishing, you’re still only as good as your last story…

When I was a daily newspaper reporter, nothing was truer than the cliché ‘you are only as good as your last story’. In the newsroom of The Daily Mail, every reporter’s stock rose and fell on a daily basis depending on whom they had scooped, or been scooped by

It was well illustrated by the decline of one of the paper’s senior investigative reporters whose investigations had run dry. Getting in the lift with him one morning, the paper’s legendary editor, Sir David English, asked deadpan: “Which floor?”

The newsroom only occupied one floor in the building. The reporter took the typically ruthlessly delivered reprimand about his own invisibility and quickly found himself another job.

Condé Nast is reportedly experimenting with a new system called The Accelerator, built by Ars Technica, which Condé acquired in 2008.

According to Digiday’s Lucia Moses:

“The Accelerator … predicts when a story is going to blow up and enables advertisers to exploit it.  … It looks at metrics like growth in views and shares and traffic sources to predict stories that will break a certain unique pageviews threshold (in the case of Wired and Ars, 100,000 unique pageviews). …

Once a story seems like it has the potential to go viral, it is connected to an ad server, where an advertiser that has pre-bought the Accelerator will have its ad appear adjacent to the popular story.”

A nice idea, and a good example of the right role of technology with digital publishing.

Emedia Vitals’ Rob O’Regan quite rightly picked up on a remark by Mary Berner, (the CEO of the Association of Magazine Media in the USA) this week that publishers are brand builders, and that technology could come later as “That’s the easiest thing to buy.”

As Rob says: “They still treat technology as an afterthought, something that can be bolted onto existing processes to magically transform print magazines into digital content.”

New generations of readers are more likely to read articles through a news reader, an aggregation app like Flipboard, or their social media stream.

According to Itamar Simonson, a Stanford marketing professor, the Internet and social media have eroded brand loyalty to the point where “each product now has to prove itself on its own.”

In this disaggregated world a great article can go viral and drive new readers and subscribers to a publication, just as a run of poor articles can leave it in the same invisible place as the Daily Mail’s investigations man.

Condé Nast are clearly doing the right thing by creating a means to attach adverts to individual stories that do well.

But in the bigger picture, Condé Nast are also treating the technology in the right way. It may be bought – as Berner argued, technology could be acquired – but once bought it is integrated on a level playing field with the stories.

As O’Regan puts it: “Whilst technology should never drive strategy, it should certainly inform and influence a publisher’s strategic direction, because flexible technology platforms can provide the spark to dramatically rethink how we serve and interact with readers and advertisers.”

That, in a nutshell, is our philosophy to helping our clients re-invent printed publications into digital publishing masterpieces. If we just bolted it on, we could display PDF page-turners in our apps like everyone else.

By going one step further and turning articles into freestanding items that are built to flow, re-size and be beautiful on tablets and phones, they become articles that can be tweeted and talked about on Linkedin and Facebook. We have used technology to work with the changing landscape.

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