Publishing is in the midst of major transition. A relatively stable industry for decades, the emergence of the internet, and more recently the mobile web, has led to change so rapid, publishers have struggled to keep up. This failure to keep pace has ultimately resulted in dwindling circulation and stagnant ad revenues. However, the increasing proliferation of smart devices is providing publishers with the perfect opportunity to re-engage with consumers and marketers alike.
One of the main issues is that relatively sudden shifts in consumer behaviour have caught publishers off guard. Digital consumers today want it all. They want to get their content wherever they are, they don’t expect to wait and they are still getting their heads around having to pay for it. If publishers don’t manage to cater for these needs, new content providers will emerge and supplant them – a fact brands are acutely aware of when making decisions regarding where to allocate marketing spend.
Unfortunately many content owners have barely scratched the surface of mobile and digital publishing. Even the largest publishers have limited their ambitions (and real investment) to only one or two of their most profitable titles, resigning the rest of their portfolio to low-rent PDF-based digital replicas. In reality this is not a viable long-term strategy – users have high expectations of what a mobile experience can deliver, so publishers really need to make the most of the functionality apps can provide.
Steps must be taken to deliver content where consumers want it, and in a way that is appropriate to the device they have in their hand. It’s also vital that this content is delivered when consumers want it. Just because a magazine is monthly in print, it doesn’t mean your digital version has to follow suit. In fact, increasing publishing frequency, even while maintaining an edition-based model, can increase consumer engagement and open up new advertising opportunities.
Cost is obviously a factor in all of this, and one that has been intensified by the growing diversity found in mobile technologies. Attempting to develop apps specific to individual devices and operating systems can be costly. But this needn’t be the case – combining the power of HTML 5 with the usability and functionality of a native app enables editorial teams to design an issue just once before publishing it across multiple platforms. This can also make it easier for publishers to include additional services, such as shopping, that can increase revenue. Mobile devices offer a level of interactivity that enables them to engage with their readers in a totally different way to print, which allows publishers to think about what their product can actually be, beyond traditional editorial content.
Interestingly for brands, recent research from Hearst found that tablet readers are in favour of increased interactivity, especially where advertising is concerned. In a survey of 500 people, 64 per cent said they would spend more time on an interactive digital ad, while 78 per cent would like to be able to tap the ad to find out more about the product. So it’s abundantly clear that the opportunity to create deeper engagement with users is there, publishers and brands just need to be savvier about capitalising on it.
There are a growing number of brands that are beginning to fully explore the engagement and interactivity that digital offers, such as Grazia. Grazia’s app (pictured) provides readers with beautiful content from the magazine through pages that render responsively on tablets and smartphones, while enabling them to shop for items directly from the page and share their interests with friends through social networks. Crucially all this is delivered through structured content and a single editorial process that spans all devices. It is only through innovations like this that publishers will be able to thrive in the new world of digital content. Newspaper publishers have so far taken the lead on this transformation – now it’s time for magazine publishers to catch up.
The future is bright for content as long as publishers take notice of reader trends and invest in technologies that make the most of functionality enabled by smartphones and tablets. Demand for great content is not going to go away anytime soon, and consumers are increasingly willing to pay for it. By engaging with consumers on their terms, publishers will simultaneously boost reader engagement and re-establish themselves as a tier one marketing proposition.