Friday, January 26, 2007

Runway Congestion: Aviation Week Portal Relaunches with Channels and Magazines

The announcement cites the relaunched AviationWeek portal as "evidence of AVIATION WEEK's ongoing commitment to digital transformation." It's certainly evident from the redesign that AW is going "online first" in a bigger way, but it's also evidence of the need to keep bridges open to your print-based community. Example: here's the online page for AW's Business and Commercial Aviation print publication, with content parallelling the current print edition and here's the Business Aviation Channel for the portal. The "channel" has content that's building during the days between weekly editions, while the weekly edition content is presumably static once it's on the site. The channels appear in the main site navigation, whereas the print edition is offered in a subnavigation bar under "publications," so the distinction is clear enough - as is the primacy of the digital channel.

This is clear enough, and it's convenient to have a link that allows someone to look at exactly the content that's in a print edition to allow you look up something online that you've seen in print. Try that on many of today's dynamic newspaper Web sites - easier said than done. So kudos from that standpoint as a convenience option for making the most of both the online and print experience. But it's also an indication that bridging to print effectively in a digital environment is still kind of an awkward compromise for those focusing on getting content management systems to do all things for all content producers and all audiences. The online print edition looks kind of "blah", fairly indistinguishable from the "channel" version of the same content.

If print is a premium product appealing to a premium audience part of the trick to bridging to online audiences would seem to be to create a more elite look and feel for that audience - even while getting born-online content to do what it does best. I think that this will get to be a little more intuitive divide as executive -oriented publications start to use print more as a personal concierge-like service. Executives should be able to carve out their own weekly editions out of the online content that matters most to them - and then have access to those selected sets as either an online set of "bookmarks" or in an actual printed publication. This would allow for far more high-value targeted advertising for print editions, and send up rates considerably. Instead of guessing which articles would be of interest to someone in print you'll know that every article had some level of interest for your target audience.

This is where B2B media will be headed over the next five or so years, but we're nowhere near that just now. In the meantime Aviation Week's new portal at least sets the groundwork for keeping the doors open to a print-oriented audience while focusing on becoming cost-effective online publishers first and foremost.
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