What publishers can learn from global media and internet trends

Even small publishers should take note of the big shifts in the digital media landscape, as they will affect their business in the next few years.

Respected analyst and forecaster Mary Meeker of KPCB recently published their annual 200 slide report on Internet Trends.  In case you haven’t got around to reading it yet, I’ve picked out the top insights that could affect all publishing businesses.

But let’s start with the Zenith Optimedia consumption forecasts predicting how media behaviour will change worldwide.

Internet will take a greater share of media consumption time from print

Zenith predict that time spent consuming content on the internet will grow by 10% pa to 2017, expanding its share to almost 29% of all media time.  Meanwhile time spent with newspapers declines by 4.7% pa and magazines 4.4% pa.  Even TV will decline by 1.6% pa.  Print won’t die overnight, but media brands would do well to gradually make more of their content available online, as eventually circulation revenues and ads follow the migration of time spent.

Mobile is driving growth in internet – especially in expanding economies

Worldwide, there are 2 billion smartphone users – 76% of all internet users.  While global consumer internet traffic is growing at 21%pa, mobile data traffic is growing at 69%.  In the US, 51% of time spent browsing is on mobile devices.

So if your content isn’t adapted for mobile viewing, you are losing readers.  Mobile ad revenue growth (at 34% pa) is higher than desktop ad revenue growth (11% pa) and now makes up 14% of total internet advertising.

Mobile reading is changing consumption habits

Viewing on vertical screens means advertisers and publishers are reformatting ads and videos to suit a portrait view.  And more are adding simple buy buttons to convert interest to purchase.  Shorter, more visual content suits rapid vertical scrolling in short bursts of “spare” time.

Content becoming more visual: images and video

Video now generates 64% of consumer internet traffic, up from 57% in 2014; and 55% of mobile internet traffic, up from 50% in 2012.  Photo sharing drives social platforms, especially among younger audiences.  So publishers need to up their original and curated image content and ensure design and UX shows them to best effect.

Mobile messaging a rapidly evolving communication channel – leading into m-commerce

Whatsapp has 800m monthly active users and is growing at 60%; WeChat (China) has 549m and is growing at 39% pa; Snapchat has 100m daily active users; Line (Japan) has 205m monthly users.  Many are now adding on shopping and services.  Will strengthen the importance of phones in people’s lives as their instant control panel.

User content expanding driven by mobile platforms

Curated user content is drawing a vast audience – eg 30m viewers in 24 hours to a Snapchat curation of the winter X games.  Facebook now has 4 billion video views per day – 75% of which on mobile.  Twitch has 100m users watching live gaming/ streaming.  And user reviews on sites like AirBnB are growing rapidly (140%pa) and providing an alternative to classical editorial reviews.  So editors need to start experimenting with curating their own images, video, live stream, audio on new platforms to avoid being bypassed.

As Millennials become mainstream, behaviour is shifting

Millennials (broadly <35s) are highly dependent on their smartphone, typically spending 2 hours a day with a bias to visual content. and increasingly using it both to communicate with a community and buy goods and services.  If publishers can enable users to act instantly on their content via their mobile, they will get more engagement from this growing market.

Shifting work patterns among Millennials could create opportunities

In the US, Millennials now make up 35% of the workforce, and 38% of them are freelancing, as they value flexible hours and technology now allows them to work from anywhere. New online services make it easier to develop multiple freelance income sources from Ebay, Etsy, Airbnb, Upwork , Uber, Thumbtack….  As this trend spreads worldwide there may be new opportunities to provide content for this community of freelance workers.

Plenty of digital innovation in China…maybe India next?

Out of the top 20 largest public internet companies, 6 are Chinese – with Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu giving Google, Facebook & Amazon some serious competition.  WeChat from Tencent is helping the Chinese government provide services to its 549m users.  Mobile social commerce is growing rapidly – from crowd-sourced clothes to local online food delivery.

India, despite social challenges, is the third largest internet market and growing at 37% pa.  With mobile making up 65% of total internet traffic, and 41% of e-commerce, services like Snapdeal are growing rapidly.  So worth watching developments in China, although India might be a more accessible market for English language publishers: it’s already the #2 market for LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter, Whatsapp, Youtube and Amazon.

So publishers need to watch the trends, and gradually make more of their content available on digital, especially mobile channels.  The nature of content is also changing – more visual, greater interaction, curating user content, connecting with products and services.

If you’re still feeling bewildered, I’m happy to discuss ideas on how you can adapt your publishing business to the digital future – you’re welcome to get in touch.

About the author

Carolyn Morgan has over twenty years experience launching, growing, buying and selling specialist media businesses across print, digital and live events.  Carolyn now advises publishers large and small on their digital strategy and writes and speaks on the topic of digital publishing strategy for media industry publishers and events. Follow Carolyn on twitter @carolynrmorgan

About the agile publisher project

The agile publisher is a research project dedicated to identifying examples of agile publishing and sharing best practice among specialist media businesses.  If you have an interesting story to share please get in touch – or follow @agilepublisheron twitter.