10 digital media trends you cannot ignore

As traditional publishing transitions to digital content, whether web, mobile, social, video, data, events or communities, so the rules of the game are changing. Publishers need to look outside their own experience and industry and learn new skills from technology and entertainment businesses.

I have spoken to twenty media and technology innovators, who are all speakers at the  SIIA Digital Content & Media Summit, which took place 23-25 Sept in London.

These are ten digital media trends that they are already exploiting and that publishers cannot ignore.

  1. Freemium is taking over the world. Technology businesses from Skype and Spotify to Reddit and LinkedIn – plus most online games – operate on a freemium business model. The core service is free, and then users are enticed to upgrade for enhanced functionality and privileged access.  Publishers need to abandon the hard paywall and allow a wider audience to sample their content for free, while building a careful conversion strategy.  Clever exponents of this new art include The Economist and OECD.
  2. All new products will be technology-led. Media brands must move on from content delivery to working out how they fit into a purchase process and how they can deliver a service to a defined audience, according to Tony Macklin of Immediate Media.  And as all new products involve developing software, publishers must acquire new skills including analytics, usability and managing the interface between editors and developers.  In this they can learn from the experiences of tech firms.
  3. All businesses are global. Digital content rapidly reaches an international audience.  Publishers like Future have 80% of their digital magazine sales outside the UK.  So they are now actively building a presence with websites in US, Australia, France and Italy, following up with local content and teams.  BMJ are taking their content into emerging markets like Brazil & India and now are 70% outside the UK.
  4. Data can be repackaged to drive revenues.  Data-sets developed for one industry sector can be repurposed for a new audience – as CABI rethought their academic database into new paid-for services.  Plus more data can be collected from an audience to repackage to new customers looking for insights – CABI and WGSN are good examples.
  5. Communities provide insight and new revenues. Publishers and event organisers alike are developing ways to communicate with their audiences all year round.  Businesses like Sift and UBM gain valuable insight on what their communities value, and can also monetize these communities through advertiser solutions and bespoke events.
  6. Audience analytics uncover more than intuition. Hard data on the profile and behaviour of readers provides publishers like Incisive and Shortlist with intelligence on how to evolve content in unexpected directions, and the evidence to pitch to new advertisers.
  7. Subscriptions are becoming bespoke. Customers expect more tailored content packages, so Emap is offering subscriptions to different combinations of platforms, and Strategy Eye and Springer charge subscribers a premium for the ability to customize content.
  8. Subscribers can be traded up to premium memberships. By adding extra services to a basic content subscription, from live events to tailored consultancy, and setting up an account management team, businesses like Sigaria and Business Monitor can grow their revenue per customer up to tenfold, and secure high renewal rates.
  9. Native advertising puts emphasis on engagement. Collaborative advertising solutions leverage editorial teams’ understanding of what content engages their audience, and allows tailored, multi-channel campaigns to drive measurable results for clients.  Archant and the Economist believe this engagement delivers more value than total reach.
  10. People expect content to be mobile. Busy consumers and business people assume they can access their favourite content on whichever device they have to hand, so publishers have to devise editorial workflow that allows them to “create once, publish everywhere” as Dennis have impressively developed.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan runs the Specialist Media Insights research programme and the annual Specialist Media Conference, building on twenty years of publishing & media experience.  Earlier this year SIIA acquired the Specialist Media Conference and Carolyn was engaged as Conference Chair for the SIIA Digital Content & Media Summit in London in September.   You can keep up with my latest thoughts on twitter @carolynrmorgan

Carolyn works with niche publishers to develop a practical digital strategy through her consultancy business Penmaen Media.

If you’re grappling with your digital strategy, do get in touch for a no-obligation discussion.