The Covid-19 crisis has created a new series of challenges for the publishing industry. Traffic is spiking for news publications in particular, but advertising dollars are fleeing as marketing budgets shrink.
Restrictions on movement mean that many teams are having to work wholly remotely for the first time, and margin pressures are forcing publishers to do more with less, yet again.
Many of these challenges already existed. But the nature of the crises has given them extra speed. In this post we are going to look at some of these trends, how they are going to accelerate, and what publishers should be thinking about to manage these changes properly.
Digital-only will grow, and print’s decline will accelerate
Pre-crisis, total global online traffic was 53% mobile phone (excluding tablets), and growing. In the US, 37% of magazine readership in June 2019 was mobile. These figures have been steadily growing for years. But now they are set to accelerate as print comes under pressure from multiple angles - not only are advertisers leaving, but in some key markets, distribution points aren’t accessible.
Some well-capitalized publications will come through this hurt but alive, some nimble publishers will turn off their printing presses and focus only on digital channels, and sadly, some won’t make it. In time, new, digital-only publishers with innovative business models will emerge.
What you need to do
Many publishers are still operating on a print-first workflow, adapting content for online, and adding mobile as a responsive version of an online article. But mobile is far more than a responsive web page. It includes interactive graphics, different article lengths to account for a smaller screen and shorter average time on page, shorter video lengths in consideration of users’ data concerns, and so on. In addition, there are intriguing possibilities around using location data to serve personalized content. Mobile needs to be considered a channel in its own right.
In order to differentiate, publishers need to put a renewed emphasis on highly-designed digital content for mobile as well as desktop, particularly for native apps or Apple News where you provide a true proprietary experience. And for print, publishers should focus on creating templates that can be reused across titles and issues to minimize the amount of valuable design time required for each issue.
Minimizing design and content creation time is critical, and removing tasks that slow down workflows, are repetitive, and/or have the potential to stop work in its tracks is critical. Which brings me to my next point!
Content-first workflows will become standard
Content-first is the concept that content should first be created and approved by an editor before any discussion about channels. Designers and formatting should only come into play once a story is final. This saves time as it removes multiple points of friction and potential edits in the repurposing and formatting stages, as shown in the workflows below.