So here we are in 2017, in a world where the only certainty is continued technology change, and digital media continue to chomp away at print. How do businesses formerly known as publishers keep their audience engaged and secure their revenues?
Which trends do you need to take notice of and include in your plans for this year?
Well this is my suggested list of priorities…
1. Mobile ease and speed
This year 75% of global internet access will be via mobile, and the smartphone user in particular is impatient and intolerant of slow or fiddly sites. This is the year to really focus on how your sites operate on the small screen, and how easy it is for users to find what they want. Strip out the inessentials and focus on speed; this will also benefit your google ranking. Think about how the growth in messaging apps might affect how your readers might want to interact with your content – take a look at Quartz’ chat style news app.
2. Visual & audio
Video content has boomed on social media, and publishers like the Economist are experimenting with turning articles into video style slide shows with captions. Meanwhile, audio has enjoyed a renaissance, with podcasts growing, and consumers re-discovering audio content as a smart way to survive their commute.
So consider how you can create more visual content: graphics and charts as well as short video slideshows and clips. These can create more traction on social media and drive traffic back to your longer form content. Experiment with audio for interviews, training, commentary and discussion.
3. Subscriptions & membership
Engagement is everything, and predictable, repeatable revenues will keep your business going in uncertain times. Adopt a mentality of continuous experimentation with subscription propositions: adding content and services, tweaking pricing models. Some digital magazines are offering time-based subscriptions, which give unlimited access to a digital archive for as long as the subs are being paid. Adding networking, events and community benefits builds affinity and makes subscriptions feel more like a membership.
4. Events & networking
Face to face events still work, despite or even because of our digital overload. Consumers build enthusiasm for their passions through exclusive experiences. And business people become inspired, share best practice and forge new partnerships through live events. Plus advertisers and sponsors value a new way to influence and meet with prospective customers. So consider how to build live (and virtual) events into your community.
5. Data, analytics & insight
Digital media allow you to track audience behaviour in great detail, so make a point of extracting insights into what content is viewed and valued, and acting on this information. But don’t neglect informal and more qualitative feedback through panels or user groups.
Proprietary data generated from articles, surveys or analysis can develop into highly valuable subscription products, especially in b2b markets, so be on the look out for opportunities here.
6. Marketing solutions
Display advertising is dwindling, both in print and online, and larger advertisers are looking for more tailored, content driven solutions with measurable outcomes. Publishers have a real chance here to leverage their editorial and design skills, and develop deeper, longer term commercial partnerships. But this takes a set of new, more consultative, sales skills, so you may need to hire new staff, or invest in training.
7. Import tech thinking
Like it or not, media and publishing is becoming a tech-driven business. After acquiring the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos has tripled the development and engineering team and is using the analytical techniques that have worked at Amazon to grow their digital reach. Consider hiring people with a tech, rather than a publishing background into your team, or developing partnerships with tech-driven organisations.
If you would like support in translating these ideas into an action plan for your publishing or media business, do get in touch. I’d be delighted to meet to discuss your ideas over a coffee or a sandwich.
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 sector publishers and events.