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Just like other media companies, the publishing industry with magazines and newspapers is struggling with the fact that the reading habits and needs of target groups have changed. Media is consumed differently than before. There is a preference for digital and short, concise content on mobile devices. In addition, digital platforms, social networks and a multitude of other content providers are competing for readers’ attention. This challenges publishers not only to adapt their content, but also to offer it in other formats on different touchpoints that meet readers’ new preferences.

Digitalization is forcing innovative strategies, technologies and a change in publishing: a digital transformation. Publishers are therefore faced with the task of adapting their strategies and investing in new technology in order to make the transition from traditional to digital formats. This is where digital publishing software comes into play. Here we explain what publishing software is, the best practices for publishers and newspapers and how desktop publishing software differs from editorial systems.

What is desktop publishing software?

Desktop publishing software, abbreviated to DTP programs, is software used to create visually appealing publications. It is not just about text and especially no longer just about the printed word but also about the combination of text, images or other media such as video content to create professional digital documents from blogs and newsletters to magazines or catalogs. For this reason, publishing companies today need specialized publishing software rather than just word processing software.

The term desktop publishing software is also often used synonymously with online publishing software or digital publishing software. One of the main differences is that there are programs that can be downloaded to the desktop, i.e. the computer. Other programs are web-based and can be accessed flexibly online. At their core, they are layout programs for easy designing and publishing appealing digital and mostly interactive content.

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Why digital publishing software is important for media companies

Whether you are a graphic designer, publisher or editor, anyone involved in the production of print and digital media cannot do without publishing software – whether desktop or online. The main advantages are:

  • Adaptation to digital media consumption with high quality and more creative design options
  • Time savings compared to traditional methods: revisions are easier to carry out, quicker import of content, easy export options, simpler collaboration
  • More flexibility in creating and customizing content
  • More efficiency, especially through integration with other tools such as editorial systems
  • Self-publishing: Desktop publishing offers creatives the opportunity to publish their work themselves.

To summarize: Desktop publishing software simplifies and improves the design and production process of media content. This is particularly relevant as audiences expect more and more from digital media.

Which is the best publishing software?

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to say what the best publishing software is. The list of desktop publishing software is long – from Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Publisher to new tools such as Canva or Substack: all tools have their strengths for very different use cases. The software category “publishing software” is constantly expanding and many providers are fighting for their place on the market. Choosing the right solution can therefore be challenging.

And that’s not all: not everyone looking for publishing software really wants a layout program. Since “digital publishing” generally simply means creating and distributing content via digital channels, sometimes a newsroom system, editorial software or a CMS, i.e. a content management system, would be a more suitable solution.

The most common functions of publisher software

Even if the functions may differ depending on the provider, there are basic similarities in DTP programs. So if you are looking for a good publishing program in the sense of a layout program, you can pay attention to this set of basic functions:

  • Layout program: DTP software in its core is based on layout and design software to create publications that appeal to readers. Fonts, frames, colors, elements for text or images, etc. can all be freely selected and set.
  • Content and word processing: To ensure that the layout does not remain empty, the frames can be filled and customized with content such as text, images or rich media in any publisher software. Writing and formatting with the help of so-called typesetting tools is therefore one of the basic functions. Advanced programs also offer text wrapping so that text flows intuitively around images or videos. Integration with a media asset management system is also desirable in order to swiftly integrate multimedia content and, conversely, to save files easily.
  • Export functions: Once the publications are finished, they can then be exported to publication formats of choice such as EPUB, PDF or HTML. Even if creating a print separation for a print shop is no longer the most common use case today, this function should still be available.
  • Publish digitally: To enable editors to publish directly online, a desktop publishing tool should be directly connected to the editorial system or content management system (CMS) for publishers.

A typical process in a layout program usually looks like this:

  1. Create a new layout or file for web, print or other media such as apps
  2. Insert and arrange text and image placeholders
  3. Import content – i.e. text, images, videos
  4. Type-setting such as adjusting fonts and further improve the design with graphics and elements
  5. Save and export in the desired format

Choosing the right digital publishing software

The full range of functions has been clarified? Is there a wide portfolio of design and layout tools that meet the requirements of the project? In addition to the functions, buyers can also pay attention to other overarching evaluation criteria. This checklist can help with the decision-making process:

Is there an intuitive interface and support options so that users* can be productive without a long training period?

Can the tool be connected to the editorial system or CMS to enable cross-platform publishing?

Is the DTP software versatile for projects ranging from blogs to magazines to apps?

Is there also a web version to work from any location?

The software should be updated regularly to keep pace with the latest design trends or security requirements. This is another reason why SaaS software that is updated automatically is ideal.

Value for money
How do the costs compare with the performance and functions that are really needed? Are licenses, updates and support included?

Will the export options and publishing formats suit you?

Furthermore, it always makes sense to compare the top providers and also obtain public customer feedback. These can be references, but also forums and review platforms. On these platforms, real users comment on what they like or dislike about the software. This can help to sharpen your own image.

What is the difference between publishing and editorial software?

Due to the digitalization of the media industry, web-based editorial systems or newsroom software have become increasingly important for media companies. In contrast to DTP programs, they focus not only on a layout, but on the entire process surrounding editorial workflows. It allows publishers to create and manage their content and distribute it via various digital channels.

This means that the entire content work comes together in one editorial system. From planning and creation to cross-media distribution on all channels. Collaboration in teams or across departments is also an important keyword here. Editorial software therefore helps companies not only to create, but also to work more efficiently. An innovative editorial system even offers analysis and reporting tools for publishers so that they can work directly with the data and insights.

→ Best practice for the use of digital publishing software

When working with a layout program or DTP software, it is therefore important that editorial teams ensure compatibility with the editorial system. Only then can they tackle cross-platform publishing and automate publishing processes without having to worry about the different channels and media.

Future trends in digital publishing

What does the future hold? As in other areas, in digital publishing too, the integration of AI and machine learning, as well as optimization through data and analysis, will lead to new revenue opportunities and more innovative solutions. Especially when combined with an AI-based editorial system, new possibilities emerge for publishers and companies in terms of monitoring and personalized experiences, enabling them to reach and engage their target audiences more effectively.

Above all, AI will also increase productivity in publishing: a key trend is increasing automation in publishing companies. AI-driven ad placements, automatically created layouts and formatting or AI-based automated content updates will greatly increase the efficiency of workflows and productivity across the sector.

Yet what will remain the same in the future: Efficient collaboration between humans and AI systems continues to be crucial for success.

Do you want to optimize your content workflows?

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Jochen Schon

Founder of Convit

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