Why it takes a “dose of counterintuition” to properly understand digital

In my piece for the Press Gazette this week, I’ve drawn on an article written back in 2010 (an age in digital publishing) about The Atlantic magazine. Why? Because I think it perfectly captures the challenge and the cultural change required by traditional print publishers in the digital age.

The Atlantic had to act counter intuitively to properly make the transition, according to the original New York Times piece. And here’s an extract from my response:

It does take a “dose of counterintuition” to properly understand digital. Why? Because a lot of what we take for granted in print simply doesn’t translate online. Equally, the assumptions we are making about digital need to be challenged. Constantly.

For example, some of us still struggle with the notion that we should, on occasion, link out to our direct competitors. And if we do we will probably end up with more readers, not fewer.

Moreover, that in order to make money we should consider giving more of our stuff away for free.

We struggle, too, with the notion that digital can aid print, not cannibalise it, at least not at a micro level.

Certainly the internet has been “disruptive”, to borrow a term beloved by technologist, and there is a systemic shift from the older medium to the newer one.

But that’s not the same as believing that your own website will destroy your weekly, or indeed that your app will destroy your website. It might but it doesn’t have to. The New York Times, for one, claims that digital subscriptions have helped stem the decline in print subs.

You can read the Press Gazette piece here.

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