Get trusted, get real, get integrated partnerships and contextual messaging: The Present and Future of Publishing 2018

Tech in Publishing

The Present and Future of Publishing event held at WeWork Holborn on 13th November 2018 was an eclectic mix of people and presentations. Sponsored by Sovrn, the advertising tech company for publishers, together with Bibblio, the content-enhancing tool for digital publishers, it started by launching the first Media Moments 2018 report. This analysis was written by the team behind the Media Voices podcast (Esther Kezia Thorpe, Chris Sutcliffe and Peter Houston) for the What’s New In Publishing website, and again sponsored by Sovrn.

The report explores seven key areas which have influenced the media and publishing industry this year, from reader revenue and platforms to advertising and data. At the event we were presented with some of the key takeaways from it:

  • ads are not that important really (90% of Amazon searches end with a purchase);
  • print and digital must work together;
  • trust is the (hard to measure) metric for news providers who have to build on affinity and belief with their audience;
  • a publishing business needs to structure 5 or 6 alternative revenue streams to add value such as making a podcast (there’s an estimated 40% revenue growth in podcast content), organising events and finding new ways of monetising through affiliate business fields and e-commerce.

More on this last point was described later by Pete Wootton, Managing Director of Dennis UK Publishing’s Dennis Digital, who explained how to in order to keep organic traffic, generate new audience and retain their audience’s trust, the content of their car magazines needed to remain high. In order to also to build audiences in key vertical markets, launch new products and most of all diversify revenue streams, they were stimulated to buy the BuyACar selling site, which therefore led the media agency to also become a virtual car dealer. Quite a unique take on reaching out to one’s customers and literally driving user interactions through the power of one’s content.

This presentation was preceded by marketer, author and consultant CC Webster’s heartfelt talk on how her story of surviving cancer and her related best-selling memoir sparked her to reflect and reframe what success means. She started helping other wellness and health-related brands do the same by simplifying and being authentic, instead of being distracted by new tech advances. The aim is to create a meaningful connection and a lasting impact with the audience moving them emotionally and powerfully. CC’s renewed sense of appreciation for life involves helping others do what she did: create a brand through their own individual story and  use it as an authentic vehicle for empowerment and positive change, to impact other people’s lives.

The event was closed by a panel formed by Media Voices’ Chris Sutcliffe and Peter Houston, Pete Wootton, Fergus Gregory (news website The Drum’s Group Commercial Director) and Lorraine Dickey, digital publisher and founder and CEO of 451 Life, an online lifestyle club platform.

The panel stressed the fundamental importance of taking new opportunities in advertising but always knowing who you and your audience are. Publishers need to accurately understand and follow their audience, their interests and needs, speaking to them at events, keeping their loyalty and using the right tools; they need to avoid following unnecessary digital trends and creating an undifferentiated presence on all platforms. More than ads, keywords and behavioural targeting, it’s really all about audience retention. This can be reached by being creative and producing premium, integrated content in partnerships with targeted brands to expand your website’s contextual relevance for your audience.  And finally, most of the panel agreed that print is back to stay and coexist with digital, as print’s tactile feel and format have a deeper relation with the audience.

Francesca Zunino Harper is a linguist, translator, and publishing professional. She worked in the British and international academia researching on comparative literatures,  translation, and women’s and environmental humanities for several years. She now works in the Humanities and Social Sciences area of publishing. You can follow her @ZuninoFrancesca.

And what about 2019? In spite of all the speakers complaining about the industry’s constant search for a silver bullet (that doesn’t exist), everyone agreed on the need to be open to disruption, agile, embrace change, and remember that people are more important than clicks. Brand authenticity, attention to who your customers are, and focus on what is valuable for them are the leading trends for the year to come.