Digitalisation has drastically changed the way audiences find and consume content. Readers have fragmented across media channels, social media platforms are increasingly used as a source for news, and SEO and UX have almost as much importance in a reader’s journey as the journalism itself. 

In light of this, the onus is on publishers to innovate. Building and diversifying digital revenue streams is critical for the future of newsrooms to connect with readers and survive in an information age full of ‘multi-screeners’ and narrowing attention spans. 

So what are the current challenges in the media landscape – and what are publishers doing to stay agile and overcome them?

The data revolution

The consumer today is watching, listening and sharing more content than they ever have before. The average UK consumer has six social media accounts, the average household has 2.5 streaming subscriptions, while podcast listeners consume an average of five episodes a week. They expect to access that content on demand, at little to no cost, and for it to be tailored to their unique preferences on a multitude of devices. 

Publishers are in a unique position to meet the demand for personalised content with their access to first-party data from user registrations and onsite interactions, and technology has evolved to help scale this data and illuminate its value. The development of bespoke and off-the-shelf solutions to gather and analyse data has meant a far greater ability to understand who readers are and treat them as they are, not how the industry expects them to be.

This insight means publishers can better understand and target consumers, improve the UX, streamline their business processes and identify new products and services to offer customers. 

Connecting consumers with their passions is a great way for publishers to cut through in an ever-crowded digital world. However, publishers should also be wary of oversimplifying audiences into neat, reductive segments. Consumers are multifaceted and complex, and they should be treated as such.

Despite yet another delay, the uncertainty around the death of the third-party cookie is still front of mind for publishers. They will – eventually – need to find a new means to collect data on their readers; this is crucial to their future success, while also respecting individuals’ privacy. 

Full transparency over the collection of data, including why and how it is used, is essential, while communicating the benefits for consumers themselves, such as relevant recommendations, high quality content that aligns with their interests, and a better user experience, is also a must.

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Digitalisation and technological innovation

The use of digital technologies has upended the traditional media business model, changing how users consume and engage with content; moving from print news or magazines to digital formats, from analogue TV to on-demand, or from CDs to downloading and then streaming. 

Choice-rich audiences are often splitting their attention between multiple channels, platforms and devices. A King’s College London study found 50% of respondents sometimes can’t stop checking their smartphones, and 49% think their attention span is shorter than it used to be. Publishers must therefore stand out to grab the attention of distracted users, combining excellent content with SEO and UX to improve the reader’s journey and maximise their time on-page.

The front page on a shop shelf for a magazine has been replaced by a variety of routes to the customer and these routes are accessible by a much wider range of publishers. The positives are that this has increased choice for a reader, improved ease of access and often quality, where a publisher has had to “up its game” as competition forces improvement and innovation. 

Attracting and retaining diverse talent

Successful adaptation to challenges is dependent on a strong workforce, and following the Great Resignation, it has become harder for the media industry to attract and retain talent.  

Media businesses have worked to ensure workplaces are representative and inclusive, not only promoting diversity within their teams but also empowering them to more effectively  put the reader at the heart of everything they do. Greater diversity (including women, people of colour, education and more) at all levels – but particularly at senior levels – doesn’t just make for better businesses but also improves publishers’ ability to deliver content for readers with the nuance and complexity they deserve. 

Publishers are increasingly using end-to-end people systems that record diversity statistics to continuously improve in this area. Tools such as engagement surveys are also beneficial, allowing businesses to work off of specific qualitative and quantitative feedback as to their success in making companies engaging and inclusive places to work. By strengthening these processes internally, publishers can continue to deliver high quality content and optimise external operations.

Intelligent, data-backed content strategies are crucial for publishers’ agility in the face of new trends and challenges. With the right tech to unlock their first-party data insights and inform revenue streams, publishers can maintain profitability and adapt quickly to behavioural, societal and financial changes. In this constantly evolving industry, who knows what the next challenge will be?

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