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New technologies in publishing industry

Marco Belmondo

The publishing industry includes how books and more broadly “content” is produced, printed, distributed, accessed and enjoyed by users and lastly sold or monetized. Recent technological developments affected all elements of this value chain and at the same time offered new, previously unforeseeable opportunities. It’s really important for publishers not to stop at the disruption that the new technologies in publishing industry are undoubtedly bringing and instead understand and pick the chance for a positive outcome.

1. Which devices?

First of all you should focus on the hardware: the device your readers use will influence greatly the way they’ll enjoy your content. According to a study by Business Insider “phablets” (i.e. bigger smartphones, optimized for screen-intense activity) will gain increasing popularity in the next few years. Phablets users launch more apps and use them longer than people with smaller smartphones. This combined with the huge popularity that video and in general interactive content is gaining has a big impact on the publishing industry, suggesting a direction to follow.

2. Mobile taking over

Most of the content is now accessed from mobile devices, and this is so much true that even Google adopted a mobile first approach when indexing websites. For the publishing industry this has many consequences:

  • Users behaviour is different when on a mobile device: content (as well as interface design) to be effective should be tailored to this use context
  • Young people (up to 18 years old) check their devices much more often than older people. This means that you should think about how to address this target, because it can become more and more important in the next future.

People have their smartphone always with them, when they walk, when they show, when they work, etc. Also your content will presumably be accessed while doing all these activities, which implies a fragmented attention and maybe a context dependant interest.

3. The audio and video revolution

While in 2019 there were around 3.25 billion digital voice assistants being used in devices around the world according to some estimates in 2023 the number of digital voice assistants will reach around eight billion units. Content is frequently accessed through these devices. This for the publishing industry means that audio contents, like podcasts, read aloud articles, audiobooks, should be of the utmost importance. Voice apps are the new hype for magazine publishers and a truly important technological advance in this industry. Relying on just text and images would be a huge error. The same applies for video content: it is estimated that by 2022, 82% of all consumer internet traffic will be video and that streaming hours will rise with frantic speed. Choosing a platform capable of embedding video and multimedia content will give you a truly competitive advantage.

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4. New technologies for monetization

Besides general publishing models or platforms many stand alone solutions are being developed that can help publishers in their struggle to survive and emerge.

Scroll for example is based on users paying for ad free content and remunerates publishers on the basis of how much their users are devoted to them; Sphere is based on building a network of publishers in which each publisher recommends the related contents of other publishers; other tools are based on machine learning and artificial intelligence and can dynamically change subscription fees or predict which stories a user is more interested in. Some companies, like DataLit (part of the Datrix group) use AI driven technologies to implement dynamic header bidding and content monetization solutions. The common factor in all these technologies is that they leverage an intensive and dynamic use of data that could not be done before the advent of the latest machine learning technologies and that allows really sophisticated solutions.

5. Self published and interactive contents

Even though the ebook growth rate is flattening the digital version of books has really been a disruptive change into the publishing industry. And with it comes the possibility of self publishing a book, something which before was really expensive to do. Now the indie market share is close to 38% of all ebooks sales. The availability for authors of more user friendly and integrated solutions to publish their content, be it a book or a digital magazine, is a technological development that led to a major change in the publishing industry. In any case, often digital content is like a traditional one (written text and images) only put on a different medium. But when you manage to exploit the true potential of the digital, adding interactivity, audio and video (for example, have a look at VoiceLit by PaperLit) , you are really using technology as you should, making it a tool for opening new routes.

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