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Think anew and act anew: the truth behind digital migration


What is the real rationale for digital content migration and how do you avoid hybrid content that is neither fish nor fowl?

If you’re reading this and you’re over the age of 30, there’s a very good chance you’re wearing a watch. If you’re under the age of 30, there’s a better than average chance that you’re not.

There’s no middle ground. What no one does is to transition from wearing a watch, through a weird half-watch stage, to no watch.

In our office a few weeks ago, I was chatting to Tim (our very brilliant editorial lead on the work we do for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) about the brands and organisations – especially membership organisations – that have legacy content sub-brands in their midst. You find them all over the place – in obscurely named website sections or hybrid online ‘publications’. While the content is important for organisations, they only exist because, many moons ago, they were the original content marketing programmes – print publications with their own standalone identity.

There are brands and organisations that are still using flippable PDFs and online magazine formats as some sort of halfway house between print and digital. Some are even spending marketing budgets on designing ‘magazine’ pages that will never be printed and only used as online PDFs. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. And it’s not Supercontent either. It’s madness. It’s a (dated) technology-led answer to a question that was never asked – a bad experience for audiences and poor ROI for brands.

Agencies and clients articulate these changes as ‘migration’ – part of a plan to reduce one channel (print) while increasing another (digital). Tim’s assertion was that this is, of course, utter garbage. ‘Migration’ only serves the agency – protecting revenues from the ravages of digital-first programmes, it certainly doesn’t serve audiences and rarely serves brands. There are many reasons why print can still be a powerful tool in the marketing communications mix, and we’re big fans at Sunday – from an aesthetic angle, of course, but also because used in the right way print is incredibly effective. But don’t hold on to a legacy sub-brand and let it dictate future content strategy.

If we were starting a content programme from scratch, would we newly create these hybrid sub-optimal platforms? No. “As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves…”, urged Abraham Lincoln after the American Civil War. We too, as content marketers, need to disenthrall ourselves. We need to stop talking about migration as if it’s a linear process, because it isn’t. The challenge is to stop ‘migrating’ programmes and creating watches that aren’t watches. Instead, commit, with conviction and confidence, to something new.

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