Lucy Allen, head of new media sales at Future PublishingThe UK's fifth largest magazine publisher has ambitious plans to double its business by 2008. New media sales head Lucy Allen explains how digital publishing is at the heart of Future's strategy.

There are still a few magazine publishers digging their heels in and refusing to develop their web presence beyond an advert for print subscriptions. What kind of web publishing model best complements a print magazine?

Well, there can't be a one-size-fits all model for web publishing. You have to think about why you want your publication to go online.

Is it to help support subscriptions, or to offer a value-added proposition to subscribers to your magazine, or because you genuinely believe that the brand footprint of the magazine can be grown by establishing a website?

Not all magazines need or can support a fully fledged web presence; you have to confront why you think you need a site, and what benefit this will deliver to the existing readers of the magazine or potential new recruits to the brand.

Many of our online brands attract a larger readership than their magazine equivalent. Generally, however, we see a similar demographic across the different access points to our brands.

Future already has three established online-only brands,, and, all with dedicated editorial teams. We also have dedicated editors for,, and

We aim not to re-purpose content from our magazines, but rather to understand that the users of our sites have very different content needs to magazine readers and so present them with original and suitable material. Mobile and online services, as well as tools such as blogging and podcasting, have become an essential part of publishing.

"Current emerging technology gives users access to our brands in a way we would never have imagined 20 years ago.

"Our job as publishers is to respond to this need and deliver applicable and compelling content customised and optimised for the user experience."

Lucy Allen

How does Future introduce ways for readers to contribute to online publications? And will reader-generated content eventually be a staple part of web publications?

User-generated content is already a big part of the Future Publishing model.

We produce more than 38 websites across a wide range of specialist content from mountain biking to Linux format. Our users are passionate about their hobbies or interests and can offer incredibly valuable advice to one another.

While we offer the expert journalistic opinion, this peer-to-peer advice forms an integral part of our online offerings. Users can contribute via comments or through our many forums.

We anticipate that user-generated content will continue to be a central part of our offering as we move forward and are looking at ever-more effective and innovative ways to include users in the development of our online brands.

Are these innovations led by a commercial desire to innovate and attract new audiences, or by the demand from an increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy web usership?

It's all about delivering content to the user in the format that they require and via the device of their choice.

Current emerging technology gives users access to our brands in a way we would never have imagined 20 years ago. Our job as publishers is to respond to this need and deliver applicable and compelling content customised and optimised for the user experience.

Accessing the internet isn't just about sitting at your laptop or PC anymore. The new generation of mobile phones, personal organisers, even the new PSP, all allow you to access our sites directly. We must ensure that the content we deliver to these devices is applicable to the end user experience and optimised for use on mobile devices.

How are you planning to expand RSS delivery for your sites?

We need to think carefully about what we deliver within the RSS feeds and how we use them as an effective marketing tool to drive users back to our sites. Currently we're looking at how to commoditise these feeds.

What are your favourite websites and why? And what do you think is the most innovative online publication?

My favourite site is, without a doubt, Glamour Magazine online. They truly understand the needs of their online users and offer a compelling and highly addictive extension to their magazine brand. Daily gossip, sound-bite fashion advice and celebrity pictures galore makes this a site lunchtimes were made for.

The most innovative site around still has to be Amazon; I may be biased having worked there, but these guys have made online shopping a seamless and elegant experience. I can buy beautiful first-edition antiquarian books, alongside the latest Jilly Cooper and even garden equipment.

If you want a bit of fun then PopBitch always has my vote. Online publishing that knows and understands its audience; just a message board with a weekly email of all the best bits - great fun.

What will be the next big challenge for online news publishers?

The biggest challenge is always keeping up with the technological advances. Broadband offers us as an industry a great opportunity to deliver ever richer and more sophisticated content to our users, but requires heavy investment to create broadcast quality content.

The broadband age heralds a new, more neutral media age; radio, TV and news content will all be delivered via the internet.

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