Did you realize that of late, especially in the last 3 months, you have consumed content more by going online than by actually reading printed newspapers or magazines? As we can see, COVID-19 has changed our content consumption pattern. The interactions with content are now beyond its physical form.
While the publishing industry has evolved at a languid pace over the last decade, COVID-19 has enforced a radical disruption. In these tough times, when people were (many places still are) restricted to their homes, content creators have ensured a steady flow of information, art, and even gossip material for their audience to binge on. Likewise, newspapers, books, and magazines played their part in providing enough intellectual, thought-provoking content. Publishers have quickly responded to different types of content requirements and have supported in every way. Journalists and publications have ensured that readers get the latest news, book publishers have gone online to support home-schooling. Some organizations even took off paywalls to allow free access, while some others went hyper-local to help people stay in touch.
COVID-19 has presented many challenges for each segment of the publishing value chain. Here’s an example: With the sheer volume and variety of content being created, ratifying and fact-checking was a big challenge, and new ways of distribution had to be considered.
Changes in the publishing industry and consumer behavior
With the crisis slowly becoming manageable, the restrictions will be lifted sooner or later. But it’s safe to say that the change in consumer behavior is here to stay.
If we take an example of content consumption during pre-COVID-19, Generation Z or Millennials were the internet era advocates. They clearly prefer digital technology for consuming content anytime, anywhere, and on multiple devices. With reduced newspaper circulations, closed bookstores, and limited availability of print editions – Gen X and baby boomers too got aligned to this. Even generation alpha is not left untouched, with schools taking remote classes and playgrounds being replaced by online media or books!
The many years of plummeting ad revenues, along with COVID-19 challenges, indicate testing times for the print industry, making it ponder whether this will be the new normal. Many publishing houses had to suspend their print editions or slash the page count either temporarily or indefinitely. The widening gap between revenues and overheads has made companies rethink their strategies to thrive in this dissimilar landscape.
Integration of IT in publishing
Spoilt for choices today, readers now expect a seamless experience, engaging content, and personalized journalism with minimal distractions (advertisements). Though the industry’s backbone is still and will always be quality information and the brilliant minds behind it, IT integration is imperative for transforming and optimizing operations, and re-creating experiences.
COVID-19's impact on the publishing industry
Data does it for you
As mentioned in our previous blog on 4 emerging trends and challenges shaping the future of the media industry, consumers have many options to access content, and intelligent systems make everything streamlined. The copious amounts of consumer data help create a personalized experience. Recommendation engines solve the problem of flipping through countless pages for perplexed readers and save time by facilitating quicker decision making. With consumption at its peak, a broader audience can be achieved through the Customer 360 view, which helps understand each reader better and provides a personalized experience.
The recommendation engines built on different parameters are trained regularly to provide real-time customizations, which ensures that results are not obsolete, and even across different time intervals, the recommendations remain relevant and liked by the reader. A good recommendation system gives a better purview of demand and supply, which helps in planning and devising strategies which catches the pulse of the audience.
To understand things better, let us look at some figures: More than 1.5 million articles around COVID-19 have been published in Quarter 1 of 2020. With such volumes at play, service providers with a good recommendation system naturally had the upper hand and engaged more readers.
The need to re-strategize
The pandemic has meant that shops are closed, printing is down, and the advertising industry is also losing out on its margins. Facebook has described its advertising business as ‘weakening’. Amazon has reduced its Google Shopping ads. As MediaVillage analyst Jack Myers predicted, “we will see magazines stop publishing, become thinner, become special issue-orientated with a high subscriber price or a high single-issue price.”
The financial burden of keeping people engaged has shifted from advertisers to the stakeholders. It is now time to get the right subscription strategy in place. With ads not generating enough revenue, content with experience has emerged as a viable option. Another alternative is to have a hybrid model, with low-cost ads and low subscription cost. Contextual ads are now key differentiators to generate traction. An ad engine utilizing data on ad views, the number of clicks, and the number of purchases made through these ads can provide enough valuable insights. Most of UK’s consumer spending is in categories that reflect who we are and where we feel we belong - lifestyle signifiers, passions, and social activities. The identity economy is motivated by influencer-driven content as 1 billion influencers worldwide have more than a million sponsored posts.
The way forward
Readers nowadays appreciate a wide range of data, visualization, moving images, audio, and interactive text. Therefore, this time of crisis can be used to drive engagement, identify non-users – attract and connect with them, engage, nurture, and retain the existing readers. There is a marked difference between organizations that practice engaged journalism and those that do not. Organizations that have put efforts in building relationships with their audience have more opportunities.
To cater to the increased user base, cloud services are a reliable option to build a robust system promptly with quicker time-to-market. To fulfil expectations and be ahead of the curve, it will be imperative to integrate multiple platforms for digital asset management, workflow management or content management and provide unified, engaging touchpoints.
As the renowned poet and novelist Ben Okri has said, “It may well be that it is not only self-isolation and science that saves us. We may also be saved by laughter, by catharsis, by the optimism of being able to see beyond these times, with stories, with community, with songs.” Having said that, to sail through these waves of disruption and stand tall, publishing companies should create an ability to not only survive the change but also thrive and excel in it.