Digital a deceptive doddle

Tim Burrowes juggle

Take it one step at a time, and before long, you’ll be juggling the many demands of digital like a pro.We had a little help from Photoshop on this image. Tim may be a dab hand when it comes to digital, but he’s not taking any chances with his laptop

Without noticing, I have spent the last three years or so making the transition from print to digital journalist; and, indeed, to digital publisher.

The most surprising thing is, although I’m set in my print journalism ways formed over 20 years, it was an easy transition. The world is nowhere near as baffling as it seems before you start this transition.

For those who haven’t yet begun, this advice may seem intensely annoying: the key is simply starting. There is no single element of your work that fundamentally changes when you “go” digital. It involves wrapping your head around lots of new elements one at a time. Almost all of them on their own are straightforward. You certainly don’t need computer skills.

One day, I started a blog. I Googled something like, “how to start a blog”. It mentioned platforms such as Word Press and Blogger. So I went to Word Press and started playing around. It took 10 minutes to choose a site design, perhaps another 10 to do some other admin.

Then I published my first post. I was in the online publishing business. Then I had to work out how to send bulk email. It turns out there are a bunch of services that will do this for you. Again, once selected, it was easy.

Now my company, Mumbrella, has about 30,000 email subscribers. A social media marketing strategy? That turned out to be creating a Twitter profile to begin with. I began to gradually follow others, started to tweet and kept following more people. Now we’ve got 30,000 followers.

It was the same story when it came to creating a Facebook page. I’m just beginning to play with Google+ now in the same way.

Meanwhile, my sales colleague also from an almost entirely print background, was stepping through an equivalent journey. As I write this, he’s on the phone to our developer explaining what he wants in a directory plugin he’s developing for our website. He sounds like he’s the world’s most digital salesman. He never used to be.

The transition from selling pages was similarly smooth. There are a small number of basic, standard ad shapes online. The language and specifications around those sink in within a few days. How they’re delivered is a doddle. Even if you just power your ad serving using Google’s technology, it can do a huge amount. Want to only show your ads to people logging onto the site from Melbourne? No problem. Want to only show them once to any given visitor? Easy. Want to only show them between 9am and 11am? Simple. Want to output some analytics on site performance for a client? Two minutes.

The language of CPMs – the cost of your ad appearing 1000 times – soon becomes as natural as discussing double-page spreads. Similar conversations soon happen around selling ads as pre-roll video.

The challenge for publishers is to ensure the journalists begin the journey, creating the sort of content that can sit next to these ads. Happily, each step on its own is straightforward. You can go on a two-day course in video editing and come out with sufficient skills to cut video. Audio editing is easier.

The little things, such as how to embed a video into your story (YouTube supports this awesomely), or how to resize an image on the fly, are picked up as you go.

If you want to make the transition, the only thing to avoid is failing to start. I wish I could claim it was more complicated.

*Tim’s trees would be plantation-grown as part of the industry’s commitment to environmentally sustainable operations!

Tim Burrowes is editor-in-chief of media and marketing website Mumbrella. Follow him on Twitter @mumbrella

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