Joe Hyrkin is the CEO of Issuu, the world’s fastest growing digital publishing platform.
The rumors of the publishing industry’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Long-form content is experiencing a resurgence thanks to new technologies that create new monetization opportunities for the publishers.
Ever been to a tech festival?
TNW Conference won best European Event 2016 for our festival vibe. See what's in store for 2017.
The ongoing and recently resurfaced, “Amazon versus the publishing industry” debate coupled with the recent news of Time Inc. going public seemly highlighted one thing: the publishing industry is dying. Common belief is that consumers prefer shiny screens to glossy magazines, tweets to tomes and publishers don’t understand how to embrace new technology to meet new consumer demands, both long and short.
Don’t believe the hype. That’s not the case, but the publishing industry is experiencing an evolution.
The changes in the publishing industry are being driven by two factors: one, the prevalence of new technology devices that allow us to consume more content on-the-go (like tablets, e-readers and phablets); and two, the resurgence of long-form content.
Let’s look at the bourgeoning importance of the latter. We’ve seen more and more that consumers don’t just like to nibble on content; they still enjoy full meals.
Twitter and Facebook are two massive and powerful media platforms that are enabling the discovery of long-form content. On those platforms, we often scan for news and interesting stories. But once we find an article or piece of interesting content, we dive deep into a publisher’s content, which could be from the likes of TIME, V Magazine or even a specialty surfing mag, smorgasboarder, with the best-kept surfing secrets.
So, instead of technology supplanting long-form content, consumers’ social feeds are like sample platters that offer a taste of something enticing, perhaps a short blast about a reader’s favorite surfer or a new product.
In the world of tweets, hashtags and Instagram, it’s easy to think attention spans are only shrinking and that consumers are only interested in reading the news or article summaries told in 140 characters. Instead, social is fueling long-form content discovery.
In addition to these new consumer habits, there is more evidence of the interest in long-form content. We’ve seen more digital magazines comes from the media companies themselves.
Earlier this year Yahoo launched Yahoo Digital Magazine and recently announced that its food and technology magazines had already attracted more than 10 million unique visitors in the first six weeks. Google offers “Google currents,” which are magazines on phones and tablets.
Consumers already have the wherewithal to read long-form content on-the-go, right in the palms of their hands. New research indicates that three in 10 adults read an e-book last year and half own a tablet or e-reader.
The digitally driven publishing evolution is here to stay and with the changing landscape comes a new consumer expectation that long-form digital content, especially online magazines and newspapers, should be free. So, as social fuels content discovery and mobile fuels digital consumption, how do we ensure that the “p” in publishing still stands for profit?
The answer lies in the continued evolution of the publishing industry. Here are three ways that publishers can embrace the shift.
1. Look to new distribution platforms
New distribution platforms allow for a more streamlined, yet larger distribution universe for content where there is less need to rely on traditional marketing infrastructure. This opens up viable options for content to be free to the readers and highly profitable to the publishers.
Free content consumption on the part of the consumer is a controversial notion (isn’t that a main ailment of the music industry?) But by embracing new technology platforms and shifting the existing industry structures, we can create new ways to monetize long-form content.
2. Ensure that your digital content is quality content
One of the appealing aspects of digital content is that it is not limited by space as with traditional magazines. There are endless numbers of ‘pages’ to explore topics, illustrated with vibrant photo galleries and linked to corresponding articles that go deeper into additional subjects of interest.
This ability to expand content can take one article and make it a multi-faceted feature story that readers can follow many trails of interest.
3. Stay up-to-date on the latest visual design trends
As technology changes the way we view the world and the way we consume content, readers expectations have changed too. There is a mass expectation of good design. A sleek and engaging design can help to retain new readers.
Leveraging responsive design, for example, is one way that publishers can cater to a reader base that expects a great experience across devices. Others take an app first approach to mobile experiences and design accordingly. Either way, the bar has been raised, and design-oriented publishers are winning.
It won’t be long until the next hurdles for the publishing industry arise and new innovations are born to conquer them. So, before declaring the industry dead, next time let’s see what’s rising up to save it.
Read next: The elements of defensible barriers to entry