Digital transformation and bridging the digital divide

This is a story about how one of the world’s largest publishers transformed itself into a digital content provider and helped millions of people step into the digital age.

Funded through voluntary contributions, the publishers two principal publications, WatchTower and Awake have a circulation larger than any other magazine in the world. A few years ago, the combined print run of both journals was more than 93 million copies.

That is a lot of paper, a lot of print facilities, and a huge global logistics operation facing the risk of obsolescence as much of the world switches to online digital content.

Another challenge is that the Watchtower is translated into more than 190 languages, and Awake! into more than 80. By comparison, Reader’s Digest is published in 21 languages.

Digital Transformation

The benefits of going digital, seem clear in hindsight, we consume information on devices, and the printed word is either displaced or complemented by video and multimedia, so any organization whose primary function is to communicate would want to use the best available tools.

Additionally, reducing print operations has added benefits such as lower carbon footprint, and enormous saving in shipping and logistics.

Bridging the Digital Divide

By making the transition to digital content the readers of those magazines would also be carried across the digital divide, millions would have an incentive to purchase devices to consume digital content.

Of course, having access to a device is only part of the story, those lacking a reliable internet connection could easily be left behind. By providing simple battery powered wi-fi routers to remote communities, readers could download video and digital publications, any new content would be shipped via USB pen drives. (JW box).

Covid and lockdown

One year ago, few of us understood the scale of the covid pandemic, in many lands, all but essential services were closed, traditional distribution channels were halted overnight. Like never before the world went online, it’s been said we had 10 years of adoption in one week.  

The contents of WatchTower and Awake, along with videos, full length movies, music, and a cartoon series for children is now available on the jw.org. With content in over 1025 languages it is the most translated website on the planet.