Truth in Digital Publishing
Marta Wohrle is the former Head of Digital Media at Hachette Filipacchi Media
(HFM) and now an independent and entrepreneurial online publisher with her own
Web site — Truth in Aging ( www.truthinaging.com). She describes herself as a Web
neophyte and an expert on aging. Her Web site takes a witty and engaging look at the
large variety of anti-aging potions and procedures.
In her previous role, she led Hachette Filipacchi’s efforts in developing products for
digital media. From our discussion, it is safe to say that she was disappointed at the
reader response to HFM’s digital replica editions. She points out that the B2B market is
better for digital editions because the content is well integrated into the workflow of
businesses, while B2C content is most often read at home or while traveling. Business
content is usually consumed at a desk where there is computer access to content. B2C
publications are read throughout the home in many areas where a computer and
network connection isn’t available or practical.
Marta and her team worked very hard to establish a base of digital subscribers. There
were dedicated resources and corporate support. Their key motivation was to save
money in printing and delivery. For Auditability reasons and to keep costs under
control, they made only minor modifications to their publications when they were
transitioned to digital replicas. They experimented with custom-published editions of
certain titles. Because their goal was to save money, they did not invest in content or
rich media specific to the digital edition. With a digital subscriber base of 30,000, Elle
Girl was their most successful digital replica. It had three times as many digital
subscribers as Car and Driver.
In her new role as publisher and editor of Truth in Aging.com, she has some great
thoughts about the role of content and editors in an Internet environment. On Web
sites, content often serves a selector function as it helps readers drive to a specific piece
of information or helps to answer a question through the Web site’s search engine. The
next important role is to connect the reader with other authoritative information,
regardless of whether that information resides within the publisher’s archive of
information or elsewhere.
An important new role for editors is to provide context for the reader to help them
explore topics further and to provide links to other varied yet reputable sources to
provide the reader with a balanced view on their area of interest. She feels that the
practice of trying to keep readers “hostage” on a publisher’s own Web site is in decline,
as publishers are beginning to realize that readers will come to their Web site more
often if the Web site helps them find the content that they are seeking.